How to Write Bequests in a Will

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A bequest is a provision of your will that directs a particular sum of money or item of property to be given to a particular person or entity after your death. Specific bequests allow you to ensure that items of sentimental value, even those with little monetary value, are directed to the hands of your friends or relatives who will treasure them. Bequests also create a valuable method of making contributions to civic and charitable organizations that have meant a lot to you during your lifetime.

Write a thorough inventory of your items of personal property.

Read More: Inventory List for a Last Will & Testament

Examine your inventory of personal property items. Determine which items, if any, have sentimental value that makes it appropriate for specific devise to family members or friends, and which items, if any, have monetary value that you would like to devise to individuals or organizations. Circle these items in pencil, noting next to each the person or organization to whom you would like to bequeath the item.

Create a list of your financial assets and accounts. Note the name of each financial institution and any designating account numbers.

Review your list of financial assets and accounts. Determine what sums of money, if any, you would like to leave to individuals or to organizations. Note these monetary amounts and the name of the person or organization in pencil on your list of financial assets and accounts.

Write your specific bequest provisions, placing each bequest in a separate paragraph and beginning each paragraph with the phrase, "I give, devise and bequeath." Include a detailed description of the personal property item or sum of money and account source, followed by a detailed description of the person or entity to whom you are making the bequest. Include his full legal name and address.

Write a final bequest paragraph that leaves the rest, residue and remainder of your estate -- any funds or personal property left over after the other specific bequests have been fulfilled -- to a person or organization of your choosing.

Write the language required by your state to conclude your will, and execute the will with the appropriate number of witnesses or other formalities required by your state in order to make your bequests legally valid.

Tips

  • In most states, you can draft your bequests in a separate document and simply refer to that document in your will. For example, the Maine specifies that bequests can be on a separate document outside the will, which means that you can change the specific bequests at any time without the need to redraft your will or go through the formalities of creating a will codicil.

    Review the gift and bequest policies of any organizations or other entities that you are considering as recipients of a bequest. Determine whether these organizations' policies require or suggest specific bequest language and whether the organizations retain the right to dispose of any bequeathed property in any manner they choose.

References

About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.