What Is a Bequest?
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What Is a Bequest?
A bequest is defined as the act of giving an item of property through the use of a will or will document. Specifically, bequest refers to the transfer of personal property; a transfer of real property in a will is called a devise. To "bequeath" property means to transfer it through a will.
Various state and federal laws govern bequests, and they must be part of a valid will in order to be enforceable. Much of the probate process consists in determining whether certain bequests are valid or not.
Are There Different Types of Bequests?
As mentioned, bequests refer to transfers of personal property. Personal property is any type of movable property that isn’t affixed to the land, such as jewelry, clothes, furniture, money, and other items.
When interpreting a will transfer, courts will often classify bequests into two main types:
- Conditional bequests: These are bequests that are transferred only if a particular event has happened. For instance, the transfer may be worded as, "I transfer my gold watch to my daughter Sally if she has children". Once Sally has children, the watch is legally transferred to her.
- Executory bequests: These are bequests that are granted only when a particular event happens in the future. For instance, the transfer may be worded, "Sally will receive my watch when she has children". If Sally never has children, she will not receive the watch.
The difference between conditional and executory bequests can sometimes be very small, and can sometimes be confusing. However, the wording of the will language can often make all the difference when it comes to a bequest. You may need to hire a lawyer if you need help writing a will provision, or if you need help interpreting what someone else wrote in a will.
What If I Have a Dispute Involving a Bequest?
Contested wills can sometimes create difficulties when the time comes to distribute property. Will contests generally require a hearing in a court of law in order to resolve the issue. This can take some time, as the court needs to examine all the different pieces of evidence to determine what the property owner actually intended regarding the property distribution.
In some cases, the testator (the creator of the will) can place an anti-contest provision in the will, which basically disqualifies the recipient from the bequest if they choose to contest the will.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with a Bequest?
Understanding how bequests work is necessary to ensure that the right people receive their property at the given time. It’s in your best interests to hire a wills or estates lawyer for assistance with a will provision. Your attorney can provide you with the legal advice and guidance that’s necessary for creating a bequest through a will. Also, if you need a will document interpreted or challenged, you may need to hire a lawyer to assist you during the court process.
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Last Modified: 07-15-2014 12:05 PM PDT
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