A last will and testament contains your final wishes for how and to whom you want your property distributed upon your death. A will can list personal property such as a gold watch, real property such as your home, or a sum of cash. There are different ways to list cash in a will, and how it is listed can affect how much a beneficiary actually receives, or if he receives anything at all.
If you know how much cash you would like to leave a certain individual, or beneficiary, you can simply make a specific bequest in the will. For instance, you can leave a niece or nephew the sum of $1,000. This means that once all your estate assets are gathered and debts paid, and the executor is ready to make distributions, this beneficiary is entitled to $1,000.
You can also leave cash as part of your residuary estate, which includes all your property that was not specifically mentioned in your will. In other words, it is the remainder of your estate after all bills are paid and all specific gifts are made. Cash gifted through the residuary estate is not generally listed as a dollar amount, but as a percentage of the remainder of the estate. There is no guarantee that a beneficiary will receive a residuary gift. If there is nothing remaining in the estate at the conclusion of estate administration, the residuary beneficiary will receive nothing.
Regan Rondinelli-Haberek received her Juris Doctor from New England Law in Boston, Massachusetts in 2008. She has researched and written about various areas of the law including constitutional principles and criminal appeals. While in practice, as an associate in a small law firm, she concentrated in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and social security/disability.