Can a relative appointment themselves as beneficiary to control a 29 year old’s inheritance?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a relative appointment themselves as beneficiary to control a 29 year old’s inheritance?

My aunt named herself beneficiary in a codicil to control me and my brothers inheritance. We were both at the time 28 and 29 years old and both of sound mind and body. Is this legal?

Asked on July 30, 2017 under Estate Planning, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

A relative can only appoint herself to control some gift, bequest, or inheritance that *she* bequethed or gave, etc. to someone--e.g. she could make herself the trustee of a trust she creates. She cannot appoint herself to control something given, created by, or inherited from another person, though that other person could appoint her: e.g. say you stand to inherit from your mother when she passes. Your mother, while still alive, could sign a codicil to her will appointing her sister (your aunt) to control that inheritance in some way--but again, in this case, it would not be your aunt appointing herself, but your mother appointing your aunt to the role.

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