Leaving a gift in your will is a thoughtful way to ensure that specific assets or items are passed on to designated individuals according to your wishes. This guide provides an overview of what a gift in a will entails, who you can leave a gift to, and step-by-step instructions on how to include gifts in your will.

For specific instructions for how to add or edit gifts in your Estate Plan documents, please review this guide: How to Leave a Gift in Your Will or Trust

What is a 'gift' in a Will or Trust?

A gift in a will, often referred to as a bequest, is a way to leave specific assets, items, or amounts of money to particular individuals or organizations. It allows you to specify who receives what, ensuring that certain belongings go to those you've chosen.

For example, you could choose to distribute everything equally among your children who you've named as beneficiaries, and also designate your grandfather's watch as a gift to your brother. That means the watch would go to your brother, but everything else would still go to your children.

Can I leave a gift to anyone?

You can leave a gift to almost anyone, for instance:

While you can leave gifts to many people, some states have passed laws intended to prevent individuals from being manipulated or coerced into making gifts they wouldn't have made otherwise. Gifts made to caretakers, accountants, financial advisors, or other fiduciaries may be scrutinized and could be disregarded and considered void by a court. 

What about gifts to charitable organizations?

Gifts to charitable organizations are also considered bequests, but we have a separate section just for gifts to charities to help keep you organized! Look for the prompt that says, "Would you like to make a planned gift to a charity you are passionate about?".

How are gifts distributed and how does it impact the rest of the assets in my estate?

Specific gifts to people or charities are given out first from the estate. After that, the rest of the estate goes to the other designated beneficiaries. You need to choose who gets the remaining assets not listed as specific gifts by naming them as beneficiaries. List the names of these people and how much of the remaining estate (everything else) they should get. It's a good idea to decide who your beneficiaries are first—who gets the "everything else"—then figure out who gets specific gift items later.

What if I don't leave any specific gifts?

Without specific gifts designated, your assets will be divided among your beneficiaries as outlined in the broader terms of your will.

What if the gift recipient predeceases you?

If a gift recipient dies before you, the gift typically reverts to your estate and is distributed among your named beneficiaries.

Ideas for Gifts

Consider leaving items of sentimental or monetary value, such as:

  • Vehicles
  • Real estate
  • Memorabilia
  • Artwork
  • Watches
  • Photos
  • Your mascot costume from college
  • Wedding dress
  • Books
  • The globe that sits in your office
  • Journals or diaries
  • Surfboards

How Gifts Appear in Your Final Documents

Will-Based Estate Plan Documents

Your gifts and their recipients will be listed in the 'Specific Gifts' section of your Last Will & Testament document, available in the Estate Plan section of your account.

Trust-Based Estate Plan Documents

Your gifts and their recipients will be listed in the Article 4B 'Specific Gifts' section of your Revocable Living Trust document, available in the Estate Plan section of your account.

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