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Precatory means recommended, expected, or expressing a hope or wish. Precatory expressions are commonly used in wills and trust and are not binding. Examples of precatory words include “wish,” “want,” “desire,” “ask,” “request,” and “should.” In contrast, mandatory words direct, command, or require something to be done.

An example of precatory language used in a will can be seen in Dwyer v. Allyn where the testator’s will read: “It is my desire that said real estate not be sold or divided among my children or grandchildren for so long as any one or more of my children shall live.” The court held this language “to be merely an expression of her hope rather than a straightforward command,” and thus the beneficiaries were not prohibited from partitioning the land. 

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]