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Charitable Bequests

About Charitable Bequests

A charitable bequest is simply a distribution from your estate to a charitable organization through your last will and testament. There are different kinds of bequests. For each, you must use very specific language to indicate the precise direction of your assets, and to successfully carry out your final wishes. In any charitable bequest, be sure to name the recipient accurately. A bequest to The Cancer Society might go to national headquarters, when you meant it to go to the affiliate in your community.

Do you have an estate?

Your estate is the sum of your assets, including property you own, insurance policies, retirement accounts, cash on hand, etc. Wealthy people may have very large estates, but even people who aren’t wealthy often have the resources to make a charitable bequest. If every adult in America made a will and included a bequest of just $100, billions of dollars would flow to charitable causes every year.

Below, we have listed some of the more common kinds of bequests, and some bequest language. We always recommend that you carefully review the terms of your will with a professional trained in handling trusts and estates.

General Bequests are legacies left to certain people or causes that come from the general value of the estate, and are made by designating a specific dollar amount, a particular asset or a fixed percentage of your estate to the cause of your choice.

Specific Bequests are made when a particular item or property is bequeathed for a designated purpose. (i.e., instruments bequeathed to the local school district for use in music education; dollar funds to be used in the operation of a school or church.)

Residuary Bequests are made when you intend to leave the residue portion of your assets after other terms of the will have been satisfied.

Contingency Bequests allow you to leave a portion of your estate to a particular charity if your named beneficiary does not survive you.