Deadhand control refers to individuals controlling how their property will be used after their death through different mechanisms. Historically, deadhand control has been criticized and limited as wealthy individuals attempted to make their wealth carry on for many generations. The rule against perpetuities is the most famous way laws reduced the ability to use legal mechanisms like wills to control the use of property after death. The rule prevents perpetual control of property after death and has been in existence for hundreds of years. Many states no longer use the rule against perpetuities, but generally, states still prevent endless deadhand control in their laws. Individuals have many ways though to extend control of their property after their death including the use of specialty trusts like dynasty trusts that attempt to carry on wealth to multiple generations.
Individuals can have many objectives in trying to control their property after their death. One can simply be ensuring that their descendants continuously bequest money to heirs. Others can be more specific. For example, an individual could want their estate to be used to fund a wildlife preserve with so much going to the nonprofit organization every year. Another popular use of deadhand control involves ensuring that descendants remain productive while receiving their inheritance. Trusts allow individuals to require that the beneficiaries either hold a job or do volunteer work in order to gain their inheritance.
[Last updated in February of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]