Anti-Lapse Statutes

Anti-Lapse Statutes
Anti-Lapse Statutes
Full Overview Of Anti-Lapse Statutes

In estate planning, ensuring that a testator’s wishes are fulfilled can be complex, especially when beneficiaries pass away before the testator. Anti-lapse statutes are an essential legal tool that addresses this issue by preventing gifts in wills from failing when the named beneficiary dies before the testator.

At DLS Solicitors, we understand the complexities of these statutes and their significance in maintaining the integrity of an estate plan. This comprehensive guide explores anti-lapse statutes, their legal framework, practical applications, and strategic considerations.

What Are Anti-Lapse Statutes?

Anti-lapse statutes are laws designed to prevent the failure, or lapse, of gifts in a will when the designated beneficiary predeceases the testator. These statutes typically allow the gift to pass to the deceased beneficiary’s descendants, preserving the estate’s intended distribution and ensuring that the testator’s wishes are respected.

Legal Framework

The legal framework for anti-lapse statutes in England and Wales is established under Section 33 of the Wills Act 1837. This provision applies to gifts made to the testator’s children or other issue (such as grandchildren) who predecease the testator, allowing the gift to pass to their descendants unless the will explicitly states otherwise.

Key Concepts

  • Lapse: The failure of a gift when the beneficiary predeceases the testator without an anti-lapse provision or substitutionary gift.
  • Descendants: Typically includes children and grandchildren of the deceased beneficiary, who inherit the gift under anti-lapse statutes.
  • Explicit Contrary Intent: The testator’s will must clearly state whether the gift should not pass under the anti-lapse provisions to override these statutes.

Importance of Anti-Lapse Statutes

Anti-lapse statutes play a significant role in estate planning, providing several benefits and ensuring that the testator’s intentions are fulfilled despite unforeseen circumstances.

Preserving Family Wealth

By allowing gifts to pass to the descendants of a predeceased beneficiary, anti-lapse statutes help preserve family wealth and ensure that it remains within the family line, reflecting the testator’s likely intentions.

Avoiding Intestacy

Without anti-lapse statutes, a lapsed gift could fall into the residuary estate or be distributed according to intestacy rules if there is no residuary clause. This can lead to unintended beneficiaries receiving the gift, which anti-lapse statutes help to prevent.

Reducing Legal Disputes

Anti-lapse statutes clarify and reduce the potential for beneficiary disputes by establishing a clear legal pathway to distribute lapsed gifts. This can help maintain family harmony and avoid contentious probate proceedings.

Case Studies

To demonstrate the practical implications of anti-lapse statutes, let’s explore a few case studies that highlight common scenarios and their outcomes.

Direct Descendants

In his will, Mr. Brown left a specific amount of money to his daughter, Emily. However, Emily passed away before Mr. Brown. She is survived by her two children. According to Section 33 of the Wills Act 1837, the gift to Emily does not expire but instead goes to her children. This ensures that Mr. Brown’s estate is distributed in a way that respects his probable wishes and provides for his grandchildren.

Absence of Explicit Contrary Intent

Mrs Green will bequeaths her jewellery collection to her son, James. However, James passes away before Mrs. Green. Since the will does not specify what happens if James predeceases Mrs Green, the jewellery passes to James’s daughter under the anti-lapse statute. This ensures that the intended distribution of the jewellery within the family is preserved.

Explicit Contrary Intent

Mr. Smith’s will specifies that his estate should be divided equally among his three children, and if any child predeceases him, their share should be added to the shares of the surviving children. One of Mr. Smith’s children dies before him, and according to his will’s explicit instructions, the deceased child’s share is distributed among the surviving children, overriding the anti-lapse statute.

Strategic Considerations for Estate Planning

Successfully navigating the complexities of anti-lapse statutes requires strategic planning and expert legal advice. At DLS Solicitors, we work closely with our clients to develop effective estate plans that account for potential contingencies and fulfil their wishes.

Clear and Specific Drafting

To avoid ambiguity and potential disputes, it is crucial to draft wills with clear and specific language regarding the distribution of gifts. This includes explicitly stating whether anti-lapse statutes should apply or if an alternate distribution method is preferred.

Regular Review and Updates

Regularly reviewing and updating the will is essential to ensure it reflects the testator’s current wishes and circumstances. Changes in family dynamics, such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, can impact the applicability of anti-lapse statutes and should be accounted for in the will.

Coordination with Overall Estate Plan

Anti-lapse provisions should be considered in the context of the entire estate plan. This includes ensuring consistency with other testamentary documents, such as trusts and powers of attorney, and coordinating the distribution of assets to achieve the testator’s overall objectives.

Considering Alternative Provisions

Testators may sometimes prefer to include specific substitutionary gift provisions rather than relying solely on anti-lapse statutes. These provisions allow the testator to designate alternate beneficiaries explicitly, providing greater control over the distribution of the estate.

Communicating with Beneficiaries

Open communication with beneficiaries about the contents of the will and the estate plan can help manage expectations and reduce the likelihood of disputes. Informing beneficiaries about anti-lapse provisions and other contingencies ensures they understand the testator’s intentions.

Understanding Jurisdictional Differences

Please note that while this guide provides information on the legal framework in England and Wales, it’s important to understand that anti-lapse statutes and how they are applied can vary by jurisdiction. If you have assets in multiple jurisdictions, it’s best to seek professional legal advice to ensure that your estate plan complies with all relevant laws.

At DLS Solicitors, we offer a range of services to support clients in all aspects of estate planning and administration, including:

Legal Advice and Consultation

Our experienced solicitors provide personalised legal advice on the implications of anti-lapse statutes, helping clients understand their options and develop effective strategies to address potential issues.

Will Drafting and Review

We assist clients in drafting and reviewing their wills to ensure they include the necessary provisions for anti-lapse and other contingencies. Our solicitors ensure that wills are comprehensive, clear, and aligned with the client’s wishes.

Estate Administration

Our team provides expert support in the administration of estates, ensuring that the testator’s wishes are honoured and that the estate is distributed fairly and efficiently. We handle all aspects of the process, from probate applications to the distribution of assets.

Dispute Resolution

In cases where disputes arise due to anti-lapse provisions or other issues, our solicitors offer robust dispute resolution services. We aim to achieve amicable solutions that protect our client’s interests and preserve family relationships.


Anti-lapse statutes are essential for comprehensive estate planning. They ensure that the wishes of the testator are upheld, even if circumstances change. These statutes allow gifts to pass to the descendants of a predeceased beneficiary, preserving the intended distribution of the estate, reducing disputes, and maintaining family wealth.

At DLS Solicitors, we are dedicated to providing expert guidance and support to our clients. We help them navigate the complexities of estate planning and achieve their financial and personal objectives. Whether you are drafting a will, administering an estate, or addressing disputes, our team is here to assist you at every step, ensuring peace of mind and financial security for you and your loved ones.

Our commitment to clear communication, meticulous planning, and personalised service ensures that your estate plan reflects your wishes and adapts to life’s changes. Trust DLS Solicitors to guide you through the intricacies of anti-lapse statutes and all aspects of estate planning, safeguarding your legacy for future generations.

Anti-Lapse Statutes FAQ'S

Anti-lapse statutes are laws that prevent a gift in a will from failing (lapsing) if the intended beneficiary dies before the testator. Instead, the gift passes to the descendants of the deceased beneficiary.

Anti-lapse statutes exist to honour the presumed intention of the testator, ensuring that the intended beneficiary’s descendants receive the gift rather than it falling into the residuary estate or being distributed according to intestacy rules.

Under the UK’s Wills Act 1837, if a gift is made to a child or remoter descendant of the testator and that beneficiary dies before the testator but leaves descendants, the gift does not lapse but passes to the beneficiary’s descendants.


Anti-lapse statutes in the UK primarily cover gifts to the testator’s children or remoter descendants (e.g., grandchildren). If these beneficiaries predecease the testator but leave descendants, the gift passes to those descendants.

If a beneficiary dies before the testator and leaves no descendants, the gift will lapse and fall into the residuary estate unless the will specifies an alternate beneficiary.


Yes, a testator can include specific provisions in the will to override anti-lapse statutes. For example, the will might state that if a beneficiary predeceases the testator, the gift should go to an alternate beneficiary or lapse into the residuary estate.

Anti-lapse statutes generally apply to specific gifts (bequests) to children or remoter descendants. They do not typically apply to residuary gifts or gifts to other relatives or non-relatives unless explicitly stated in the will.

If a residuary beneficiary predeceases the testator and the anti-lapse statutes do not apply (e.g., the beneficiary is not a child or remoter descendant), the lapsed share of the residuary estate is redistributed among the remaining residuary beneficiaries or according to the rules of intestacy if there are no other residuary beneficiaries.

Yes, a testator can include a survivorship clause in their will, requiring beneficiaries to survive them by a certain period (e.g., 30 days) to inherit. This can help ensure gifts do not lapse and are distributed according to the testator’s wishes.

A testator should:

  • Clearly identify the primary and alternate beneficiaries.
  • Include provisions for what should happen if a beneficiary predeceases them.
  • Consider including a survivorship clause.
  • Seek legal advice to ensure the will reflects their intentions and complies with relevant laws.

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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