Definition of precatory
: expressing a wish
Did You Know?
Nowadays, you're most likely to see "precatory" used in legal contexts to distinguish statements that merely express a wish from those that create a legal obligation. For example, if you add a provision to your will asking someone to take care of your pet if you die, that provision is merely precatory. Outside of jurisprudence, you might see references to such things as "precatory dress codes" or "precatory stockholder proposals" - all of which are non-binding. "Precatory" traces to Latin precari ("to pray"), and it has always referred to something in the nature of an entreaty or supplication. For example, a precatory hymn is one that beseeches "from sin and sorrow set us free" -versus a laudatory hymn (that is, one giving praise).
Origin and Etymology of precatory
Late Latin precatorius, from Latin precari to pray — more at pray
First Known Use: 1636
Legal Definition of precatory
: expressing a wish or desire but not creating a legal obligation or affirmative duty <a precatory remark> <the precatory words>
Additional Notes on precatory
When interpreting wills, courts will look to whether a direction is precatory or mandatory in carrying out the testator's intent. Thus, courts generally will not construe language to create a trust if the language is only precatory and there is no evidence that the language was intended to create a trust. Words such as with the hope that or it is my wish that are often considered precatory.
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