Contrary to my earlier posting, I have now come to the view that the legacies to the grandchildren, as expressed in the will, are more likely to be vested, and not contingent.
Why have I changed my mind is down to the little words – “on” or “if”
“If” clearly makes a gift conditional, so that a gift “if they attain 18” cannot vest until the condition is met.
“On” can impose a condition, especially if you read into the clause a “missing” word, such as “conditional/contingent” before it. However, before rectification was allowed under s.20 Administration of Justice Act 1982, whilst courts could omit words, they could not add words. Accordingly, to treat “on” as imposing a condition required the gift to be construed in the context of the will generally. I therefore feel that a gift “on attaining age 18” should be treated as vested unless there is anything to suggest otherwise.
Since s.20 AJA came into effect, one can now look to the will instructions to help resolve any uncertainty and, if necessary, the courts will decide if it is merely a question of construction, or if rectification would be required.
In the case in point, I suspect the will was not drafted by the firm now looking at the issue. It is not altogether unusual for the last several pages of a will to include what are essentially administrative provisions. However, too often they also include provisions such as: that all gifts are subject to the attainment of a specified age. If the will in question also includes such provision, “on” would need to be read in context with that further (semi-hidden?) requirement despite what “on” might naturally mean. There are times when we like to make life difficult for ourselves!