Anti-lapse statutes are laws enacted in every state that prevent bequests from lapsing when the intended beneficiary has relatives covered by the statute. Without the statutes, if someone were to bequeath something to an intended beneficiary and the beneficiary dies before the testator, the gift would lapse, meaning it would be distributed amongst the rest of the testator's estate as if the gift never occurred. Anti-lapse statutes prevent this from occurring in many circumstances involving relatives.
For example, let us say Rachel bequests her $10,000 to her sister Eilene, but Eilene dies before Rachel. In all states, the anti-lapse statute would allow Eilene’s kids to take the $10,000. Anti-lapse statutes do not apply to non-relatives. So, if Rachel bequests $10,000 to her neighbor Edred and Edred predeceases her, Edred’s kids cannot receive the $10,000 as it would lapse.
States differ greatly on what family members the anti-lapse statute covers. New York, for example, limits the anti-lapse to issues and siblings of the testator. In our example above, if Rachel bequeathed $10,000 to Eilene’s son Thomas and Thomas predeceased Rachel, New York’s anti-lapse statute would not apply because the beneficiary (Thomas) was not a sibling or issue. Other states take broader views, such as Missouri, which allows the anti-lapse to apply to any situation if the beneficiary was a blood or adopted relative.
[Last updated in December of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]