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Is a Disinheritance Clause Requiring Adherence to a Particular Faith Valid?

The Illinois Supreme Court recently held that a Jewish couple’s wish to disinherit any of their grandchildren that married outside their faith was lawful. The particular will had provided that upon the death of the surviving Trustor, if any grandchild had married outside the Jewish faith, their non-Jewish spouse had a year to convert to Judaism. If they did not, the gift would lapse. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the clause was valid as long as the method of disinheritance did not encourage divorce. One of the Justices wrote that the Trustors were “free to distribute their bounty as they saw fit and to favor those grandchildren whose life choices they approved of.”

Restraints on marriage contained in wills or trusts are generally held by the Courts to be void as against public policy. In California, Civil Code section 710 provides that conditions imposing restraints on marriage…. are void. Althought there doesn’t seem to be as yet a case in California involving a clause such as in the Illinois case, it seems logical that the California courts would rule similarly and uphold a clause that provided for disinheritance of a beneficiary who married outside of a particular faith.

Including a provision to disinherit a particular beneficiary because of religion, or on grounds of substance abuse or other conditions, is a tricky area of estate planning. You should consult an experienced estate planning lawyer if you want to create such provisions. At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, we can help you create an estate plan that will contain such provisions. Call us to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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