Personal Gifts in a Will

Locate a Local Finance Lawyer

Find Lawyers in Other Categories
Most Common Finance Law Issues:

What's a Personal Gift in a Will?

A personal gift in a will is property that is distributed from one person to another through the use of a valid will document. Since the gift is to be distributed using the will, this means that the gift will transfer to the recipient only upon the death of the owner. These gifts are considered “personal” because they are transferred from one person to another specific person, rather than a general entity such as a charity.   

There are many reasons why a person would choose to distribute gifts through a will upon death rather than during their lifetime while they are still alive. A common situation is where the owner of the property will still be using the asset during their lifetime (such as a residential home or their everyday car). They may only want to transfer the property after death so that they can continue using the property.

Are There Different Ways to Distribute Personal Gifts in a Will?

Yes- there are a few different ways to distribute a gift in a will. This mostly depends on the wording used to describe the property, as well as the way in which the owner classifies the gift. In general, there are three different ways to categorize personal gifts in a will:

The difference between specific, general, and residual gifts comes into play when one of the gift requirements is not satisfied. For example, if the property owner chose to give a certain ring as a specific gift, but they did not possess the ring anymore at the time of death, it could affect the entire chain of property distribution. Thus, it is important that personal gifts in a will be drafted clearly and carefully to ensure that the person’s wishes will be carried out.

Is It Better to Transfer a Gift in a Will or during My Lifetime?

A gift that is distributed through a will after death is known as a “testamentary gift.” In contrast, a gift that is distributed while a person is still alive is called an “inter vivos gift.” Inter vivos gifts are usually distributed through other means besides a will, such as a living trust

The choice of whether to distribute gifts during life or after death is largely a matter of individual preference and discretion. As mentioned, if the holder of the property will still be using the item until their death, it may be better to transfer the gift through a will. But, if they would like to have the item distributed while they are still alive, it may be better to transfer it as an inter vivos gift rather than a testamentary gift.

Some of the characteristics of testamentary gifts and inter vivos gifts are:

Again, the key to proper distribution of personal gifts in a will is thorough planning. While no one can anticipate every possible situation in the future, it is better to handle gifts with sufficient planning rather than distribute them in a haphazard way.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Personal Gifts in a Will?

If you have questions about distributing personal gifts in a will, you may wish to consult with an estate lawyer for advice. Your attorney can help advise you on how to distribute your gifts according to the way you want. Or, if you will be the recipient of a personal gift in a will, a lawyer can help defend your interests if a contest or dispute arises.

Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 06-23-2014 02:43 PM PDT

Find the Right Lawyer Now

Link to this page

Law Library Disclaimer

LegalMatch Service Mark