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Political Bequests in a Will

When an individual uses only a will (instead of a trust) and does not have professional advice, there is a greater chance that the intended beneficiaries will not receive the property that the testator (the person who creates a will) wanted them to receive. For one thing, the will itself may not be executed properly. At other times, the beneficiary may pass away before the testator’s death without the will being updated. At still other times there may be unique complications with the ability to give in certain ways. Take, for example, political gifts.

Leaving Money to a Political Party in a NYC Will
Many community members have strong attachments to a political party and may want to leave part of their estate to that party. However, this presents some complications, because there are special rules–campaign finance laws–that often apply to what gifts can be given to these parties (or candidates). It is crucial to take those rules into account. Otherwise, the final decision is left up to the court, with extreme uncertainty as to where the money will actually go.

This issue made headlines this week after a lawsuit was filed by the Libertarian Party National Committee.

Libertarian Party Lawsuit
As summarized by Ballot Access News, The Libertarian Party National Committee sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the FEC’s refusal to give the party a bequest. The testator died in 2007, leaving over $217,000 to the party. However, this presented a challenge, because there are laws which limit the amount of money anyone can give to a party in a single year. In particular, the FEC determined that the party can only receive $30,000 per year–and so the party was forced to wait year after year to receive all of the funds.

The FEC claims that any holding which allows the deceased individual to pass on property beyond the campaign limit would circumnavigate the law. The Commission argues that the wealthy may try to curry favor unfairly by promising to leave large bequests.

The legal battle has been waging for over a year, in part because of jurisdictional issues. It is unclear if the case should be heard by an en banc U.S. Appeals Court panel (all judges on the court) or a single U.S. District Court judge. The federal campaign law at issue suggests that the appropriate court depends on whether the issue at hand is “substantial.”

Whatever the court decides, it is essential to have professional advice with these issues ahead of time from a NY estate planning lawyer so that there is increased certainty that your property will go exactly where you want it to after your passing.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

The Bernard Matthews Case: Putting a Mistress in a Will

Inheritance Disputes Among Children While Parents Still Alive

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