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What's in a name?

Are name-and-arms conditions still fit for purpose in today’s succession law? Joseph Goldsmith guides us through the grand old case of Howard v Howard-Lawson

21 March 2011

Sometimes a testator wishes to make a gift in his will conditional upon the satisfaction by the intended beneficiary of some condition, with the proviso that the gift will be forfeit in the event of a failure to satisfy that condition.

Conditions that are illegal, contrary to public policy, initially impossible of performance, repugnant to the estate previously given or purely in terrorem are void, but otherwise, provided that they are sufficiently certain, a testator is entitled to impose conditions upon his gifts.

On occasion, with a view to perpetuating his family name and reputation, a testator might require a beneficiary to adopt a particular surname or to bear particular arms, or might provide for forfeiture in the event that the beneficiary should discontinue to use the surname or arms.

While Lord Mansfield thought that the court might not permit forfeiture for breach of “so silly a condition as this” (Gulliver d Corrie v Ashby [1766] 4 Barr ...

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