What is a Bequest?

What is a Bequest?

Bequests are gifts made as part of a will or trust and are one of the most popular and flexible ways to support the causes that are important to you and your family. A bequest can be to a person or a trust, or it can be a charitable bequest to a nonprofit organization such as the CDC Foundation. Anyone can make a bequest—in any amount—to an individual or charity. Bequests can be simple—"I give $1,000 to my grandson"—or they can be complex, with conditions about how the gifts can be used.

How Bequests Work

There are different ways that bequests operate:

  • You need to leave instructions to make a bequest, typically in a will. Other documents, such as beneficiary designations and revocable living trusts, may also be part of how your estate plan is managed after your death. You can detail different types of bequests in your Will and update it throughout your life as your family, priorities and wishes evolve.
  • For property to be passed on after you pass away and your bequests have been made, your will must first be "probated" or legally validated. Many states have improved the probate process, making it less expensive and faster.

What are the benefits of making a bequest?

  • You leave a lasting legacy to be remembered
  • You lessen the burden of taxes on your family
  • You may receive estate tax savings

Bequests to the CDC Foundation

It’s easy to include a bequest to the CDC Foundation in your will. You can make your bequest unrestricted or direct it to a specific purpose. You may also indicate a specific amount or percentage of the balance remaining in your estate. 

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Types of Bequests

There are four types of bequests, and many wills contain more than one type:

  • General bequests—gifts of property taken from an estate's general assets.
  • Demonstrative bequests—gifts that come from an explicit source (such as a particular bank account).
  • Specific bequests—gifts of property, like a painting, jewelry, car or cash (e.g., $10,000 to my great nephew's cousin).
  • Residual gifts—gifts made after all of the debts and expenses are paid and other bequests are made. These are typically a percentage of the remainder; in some cases a share (e.g., three shares of 42 total shares).

Charitable bequests can fall into any of these four categories. One common approach is to leave specific or demonstrative bequests to family members or other individuals and then leave a residuary charitable bequest to a charitable organization. These bequests can be directed to private foundations and charities that sponsor a donor-advised fund program, allowing the bequest to become an ongoing means of charitable support. That way, the individuals get exactly the amount or items you want to leave them, and the charity receives the remaining funds.

If you have no will to specify your instructions, state law dictates where your property passes. Generally, this would be first to a surviving spouse, then to your children and other family in accordance with state law. If you don't leave a will and don't have any living relatives, your estate could go to the state, depending on where you live.

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Information contained herein was accurate at the time of posting. The information on this website is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Charitable giving vehicles described herein are offered only in areas where permitted by law. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only. References to tax rates include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State law may further impact your individual results.