Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

What is ‘Dead Hand Control’ in Florida Estate Planning?


The term “dead hand control” is a term describing where a testator controls their assets “beyond the grave.”  Essentially, you can have “dead hand control” in a Will or other estate planning documents in order to require a beneficiary to meet certain conditions before they are allowed to inherit assets from your estate.

For example, the testator may require their beneficiary to attend drug or alcohol rehabilitation counseling or graduate from a specific school in order to receive the inheritance. However, beneficiaries may contest such a Will with strict conditions in order to receive the assets, but only if they can prove that the request is illegal, immoral, or unfair.

When Dead Hand Control May Not Be Enforceable

The testator of a Will has the right to give, while the beneficiaries have no right to receive (unless it’s a spouse). For this reason, dead hand control may be enforceable when the testator wants to stipulate conditions to a beneficiary’s inheritance.

However, not all conditional bequests are enforceable. Also, dead hand control does not always work as intended. Florida law allows the use of dead hand control in estate planning as long the requests made by the testator do not violate public policy and are not illegal, immoral, or unfair.

Beneficiaries are likely to contest a Will with dead hand control if the provisions:

  • Require the beneficiary to engage in illegal activity or commit a crime;
  • Promote divorce or family strife;
  • Require the beneficiary to practice a certain religion;
  • Prohibit the beneficiary from marrying someone of a certain race;
  • Promote property destruction; or
  • Set other illegal, immoral, unreasonable, unfair, or uncertifiable conditions.

Can You Benefit from Using Dead Hand Control?

While some people may benefit from using dead hand control in estate planning, others may find other ways to exercise control of their property even after their passing. Since certain dead hand control provisions may not be enforceable and it can be impossible to anticipate every possible scenario when imposing conditions, the trustee may do a better job at distributing assets when certain conditions are met.

For example, the trustee can have the discretion to withhold distributions of assets if the beneficiary has problems with alcohol or drugs.

Also, if you want to require the beneficiaries to meet certain conditions before allowing them to receive the inheritance, doing so may not be practical in certain cases. For example, if you do not want children to inherit your assets until they reach a certain age, someone will have to maintain control of your property before the condition is met (in some cases, this might take years). This can make the administration of your estate even more costly than it is.

Since certain dead hand control provisions may not be enforceable, it is vital to consult with a St. Petersburg estate planning lawyer if you are considering using conditional bequests in your Will or Trust in Florida. Contact our experienced lawyers at Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, to schedule a case review. Call at 727-471-5868 today.


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn