Estate planning involves seemingly complicated legal terms like intestate, probate, and bequeath. But planning what to do with your properties and assets after you die doesn’t have to be complicated.
If you’re just getting started with your estate plan, it’s important to familiarize yourself with common terms found in a Last Will and Testament—arguably the most important legal document for managing your life and legacy.
We’ll help you better understand your Last Will by tackling the meaning of the term bequeath, how it differs from the term devise, and whether either these terms are still used in estate law today.
The definition of bequest
Bequest is a term that generally applies to legacy giving. To bequeath something means to leave or gift an item by way of a Last Will and Testament. You can give a bequest to another person, group, company, or organization (known as a beneficiary to your Last Will).
Read more: What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
Does a bequest only appear in a Last Will?
The term bequest generally applies to gifting by means of Last Will, but you may also find it in documents such as a:
- Pour-Over Will: This is a special type of Last Will that works in conjunction with a Living Trust. A Pour-Over Will transfers any remaining property a person may have into their Living Trust. When they pass away, authorities distribute the property according to the Living Trust.
- Codicil: This is an addendum to a Last Will, which allows you to add, change, or remove specific clauses to an existing Last Will. You may need a Codicil to add clauses or comments that you forgot about or to reflect a change in mind or circumstance. For instance, you may wish to change beneficiaries, guardians, or executors.
Bequest vs devise in a Last Will
The terms bequest and devise both describe gifting in a Last Will, but their meanings differ slightly. While bequest often describes any type of gift given to a beneficiary after a person passes away, devise only applies when the gift is real property. Real property typically refers to real estate such as land and any permanent structures (like a house) on top of it.
In some instances, the word that describes the person whom you give a gift to also differs. A Beneficiary is someone who receives a bequest whereas a devisee is someone who receives a devise.
Read more: What is probate?
Are these terms still common in estate law?
Estate law and legal documents continue to use the term bequest widely. You’re likely to see the term sprinkled across the pages of a Last Will in both the headings and the clauses.
The term, devise, on the other hand, is not as common. In fact, some estate lawyers sometimes describe the term as “old-fashioned”. You may see it pop up a handful of times in your Last Will, but you likely won’t see it much more than that.
Completing your estate plan
Now that you’re familiar with some of the terms in a Last Will and Testament, you’re closer to completing an essential component of your estate plan.
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Let your final wishes be known in your Last Will and Testament