When putting together an estate plan, a testator has several options available to most precisely create a testament that reflects his or her wishes. Although many people may only think the specificity is the goal of each estate plan, some testators may also aim to be intentionally vague with some of their wording. Known as facts of independent significance, certain terms in a will or trust may be modified naturally.
A fact of independent significance works on the basis that some language may intentionally be undefined. One example of facts of independent significance is when a testator leaves property behind for a largely unspecific group of beneficiaries. For example, if a wealthy benefactor creates a will that provides a special part of an inheritance to his or her house workers, that property will go to any workers at the time of the will’s execution. Anyone hired since the creation of the will may be permitted to receive this property, while anyone fired will be discounted.
In other situations, a gift may change while the beneficiary stays the same. To understand the concept, this would mean that if a person owned one car at the time of drafting the will and bought another in the meanwhile, the new car would be granted to the beneficiary. However, titled property specifically cannot be used in cases of a fact of independent significance. Thus, this specific example cannot legally occur, as a car is considered a piece of property dependent upon a title.
Facts of independent significance are important tools for benefactors. The law surrounding wills and trusts, known as probate law, provides several opportunities for testators to develop a very specific testament. Although primarily working through a lack of specificity, facts of independent significance are widely used to fulfill the needs of the testator. For more information, contact an estate planning attorney.