The Danger of Unrestricted Bequests and Gifts

The Inheritance Left To University of New Hampshire By A Long Time Library Employee Was Spent In A Way That Raised A Few Eyebrows

Longtime University of New Hampshire library cataloguer died last year at the age 77. As his final wish to the world he left the entirety of his estate to the university where he graduated from and worked for most of his life. What shocked many though is the size of the humble librarian’s estate: four million dollars accumulated over a lifetime working for the university and living frugally.

But while many at the University of New Hampshire are thankful for the gift, the way the administration has decided to spend it has many asking if the university is honoring the librarian’s memory. One million dollars is being used to install a new video scoreboard at a new University of New Hampshire football stadium. Many students, alumni and community members wonder if this is the best way to use the funds considering the librarian’s occupation and passion for literature.  

No Restriction, No Harm, No Foul

The University of New Hampshire defended its decision to use the funds given by the deceased librarian as it saw fit, noting that the funds were given to them without restriction and that a separate $100,000 was given to the university’s library. Perhaps from a public relation’s standpoint, the University of New Hampshire’s allocations for the funds was a mistake but legally no harm was committed. When a person leaves a bequest or gift in their will, the assets or money is generally given freely and without restriction.

Wills are designed to pass on assets shortly after a person becomes deceased. The entire probate process is designed to retitle assets, respect the wishes of the deceased and ensure that everything is done according to the law. Most bequests or gifts made by a will are done without any restrictions or conditions attached. In fact, many courts do not favor conditions attached to assets passed by a will and if any of those conditions are illegal or against public policy, the court will not enforce them.

Certain Restrictions Apply

The danger of not having any conditions or restrictions attached to a bequest or gift though is that there is no guarantee that the funds will be used for purposes that you approve of. Even if you do attach conditions though, there is no guarantee that a court will uphold them. The safest way to ensure that your money is used for the purposes you approve of is to set up a trust to carry out your wishes. A trust will have an appointed trustee who will be able to release funds based on conditions that you set ahead of time. These conditions can be set out in the future and the trustee that you appoint will manage the assets for you even after you have passed.

See Related Posts:

Back To Basics: Preventing Will Contests

Qualifying Your Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust

Protecting Assets From Previous Marriages And Yourself

Contact Information