A condition precedent is an event or state of affairs that is required before something else will occur. In contract law, a condition precedent is an event which must occur, unless its non-occurrence is excused, before performance under a contract becomes due, i.e., before any contractual duty exists.
For instance, in the sentence "Jack will only go to heaven after he has died," the death of Jack is a condition precedent to Jack going to heaven (although it is also possible in this example for the occurrence of other conditions precedent to be needed before Jack goes to heaven: it is not stated that Jack will necessarily go to heaven if he dies).
In estate and trust law, it is a provision in a will or trust that prevents the vesting of a gift or bequest until something occurs or fails to occur, e.g. the attainment of a certain age or the predecease of another person.
For comparison, a condition subsequent brings a duty to an end whereas a condition precedent initiates a duty.
- Poussard v Spiers and Pond (1876) 1 QBD 410
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