Lapse Statutes Law and Legal Definition

Lapse statute is a statute that allows a gift to pass on to a devisee’s descendants if a devisee predeceases the testator. Under the common law and laws of all states, a testamentary beneficiary must survive a testator to prevent lapse of a gift. Lapse statute substitutes certain heirs of some types of testamentary beneficiaries when the beneficiary has predeceased the testator, rather than force the gift to pass through intestacy.

In the U.S., most of the states have enacted lapse statutes. However, the terms of the statute vary by state. Lapse statute is also termed as antilapse or nonlapse statute.

The following is an example of a state law (Virginia) referring to lapse statute.

Pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 64.1-64.1, “Unless a contrary intention appears in the will, if a devisee or legatee, including a devisee or legatee under a class gift, is a grandparent or a descendant of a grandparent of the testator and dead at the time of execution of the will or dead at the time of testator's death, the children and descendants of deceased children of the deceased devisee or legatee who survive the testator take in the place of the deceased devisee or legatee. If the takers are all of the same degree of kinship to the deceased devisee or legatee, they take equally. However, if the takers are of unequal degree, then those of more remote degree take by representation”.