A bequest is a gift left to a family, friend or organisation by someone in their Will. There are many different forms of legacies you need to learn while writing a Will. It may sound overwhelming, but when you write a Will and administer it if you are the executor of a family, reading this guide will help you prepare for making legacies.

The material in this guide applies to writing a Will in England and Wales; it may vary from other aspects of Scottish Law. There is a mutual arrangement that any Will made in England or Wales and Scotland is valid in the other jurisdiction if it is checked by a lawyer in the country where it was written.

What is a bequest?

The sense of a’ Bequest’ is a gift of money or personal property that a person who has died leaves in their Will to a specific individual or organisation.

Bequests cover all things, known as properties, held by the individual making the Will, including money, personal property (for example, cars or jewellery) and real property (houses or land). Owing to their financial interest, horses and ponies are listed as properties too.

If someone leaves actual property in their Will, such as a home, the legal term is’ devise,’ although this is more widely referred to as a bequest. Money gifts or personal property are often defined as legacies, in order to differentiate them from ideas. This article is also about legacies.

What are the different types of bequest?

There are five broad types of bequest that you can make in your Will:

  1. A specific bequest is a gift of personal property, including stocks or shares, to a specific recipient.
  2. A general bequest is a gift of a sum of money to a designated recipient. This is also sometimes called a pecuniary bequest.

General bequests can also be left to organisations, such as an animal sanctuary or political party. In this instance they are often described as charitable bequests.

Making a charitable bequest can reduce the amount of inheritance tax payable by an estate.

  1. A demonstrative bequest is a gift of money that is to be paid from the proceeds of the future sale of a item, including stocks and shares.
  2. A reversionary bequest is a gift that states who the property should be left to if the original recipient dies before the person who has made the Will.
  3. A residual bequest is the value of the remainder of the estate after all other bequests are made; it is usually inherited by the person closest to the person who has made the Will, such as their spouse, child or sibling.

Bequests can also be multiple types; a residual bequest can also be reversionary.

What conditions can be applied to bequests?

Bequests may be conditional or absolute. An absolute bequest is a gift to be given as soon as possible to the receiver of it.

A conditional legacy depends on the beneficiary meeting the conditions stated in the Will, such as marrying, raising children or using the money for education.

Absolute or conditional legacies in a trust fund managed by trustees can be left to the beneficiaries.

When can bequests be invalid?

In many different situations, legacies can become null or’ fail.’

Unless the asset is no longer part of the estate, the intended beneficiary will not accept the gift and will not be entitled to compensation unless expressly provided for by the testator in the Will for this eventuality.

Bequests can also fail if the intended beneficiary dies before it can be changed by the individual who made the Will. For this case the remaining beneficiaries are disbursed common and general bequests.

If the residual receiver dies before the person making the Will the residual bequest is allocated as if the person making the Will died intestate.

Bequests are issued by the Will’s executor following the award of probate or administrative letters.

When you are the executor of a Will with especially complicated legacies you might want to consider administering it by instructing a probate solicitor.

When anyone disagrees with any bequest, they will dispute a Will within 6 months of the probate grant.