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Precatory Language

In the context of estates and civil litigation, precatory language is language requesting, recommending, or expressing a desire rather than a command. Precatory words can include “wish,” “will,” “will and desire” and “request.” Rouner v. Wise, 446 S.W.3d 242, 256 (Mo. 2014). In Missouri, courts are reluctant to find the existence of a trust when precatory language is used. Estate of McReynolds, 800 S.W.2d  798, 800 (Mo. Ct. App. 1990). Accordingly, in Missouri, precatory language can become confusing in that there is sometimes uncertainty about a documents intentions, wishes or instructions — and Courts are reluctant to find that a trust is created or a command is binding without unequivocal language. These problems can often lead to litigation. There are instances in which a trust-maker or will-maker uses precatory language regarding the disposition of property to a specific person. The issue then becomes whether or not that is something a trustee or personal representative is obligated to do, or simply may do. 

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