Can you specify in a Will what happens to your belongings upon the death of your beneficiary?

My father is ill with brain cancer. He is saying he wants to leave everything to his third wife, the other 2 are deceased. He wants to specify that after her death his 4 children from his first marriage get what’s left. Is this legal to do or can she leave everything to whomever she wants upon her death? If she sells the house that is paid for is she entitled to all the money?

Asked on August 29, 2011 Michigan


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your situation.  The best thing for you to do is to speak with an estate planner as soon as you possibly can.  If the assets your father wishes to leave his third wife are held jointly with her then they pass to her automatically at the time of his death.  If they do not, and they are his alone, it may be best for him to place them in a trust with his wife a the beneficiary during her lifetime with his 4 children being named "remaindermen" meaning that once she passes away they share equally in the remiander of the estate. Otherwise, his 3rd wife does not have to honor his wishes once the property passes to her.  Good luck with everything.  

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