lapse statute

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Lapse statute (also called anti-lapse statute) is a rule of construction in trusts and estates law that prevents a devise from lapsing. Under common law, if a person devised a gift to a devisee and the devisee passed prior to the testator, the gift would “lapse” or fail, leaving the property to intestacy laws. Instead of allowing this to occur, lapse statutes would let the gift go to the descendants of the devisee in order to better reflect the testator’s intentions. Lapse statutes vary greatly by state with some only allowing children to benefit from lapse statutes while others allow descendants of other relatives. As merely being a rule of construction, lapse statutes will not apply if the will exhibits other intentions than the devise passing to the devisee’s descendants. 

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]