Bequests are not just for billionaires. Anyone can leave a gift of any size to a person or organisations after their death.

What are bequests?

Bequests are simply gifts you specify in your will to be made after your death. They can be money or physical property, and they can be given to people or organisations. And you can have multiple bequests in your will.

Why make a bequest?

Some people choose bequests because they have a cause they are passionate about. For example, perhaps you’ve been a regular donor in a small way to a charity over the years, but want to leave a bigger gift for them when you die.

Other people have particular items of sentimental or practical value they want to go to a good home. It might be a favourite item of jewellery to a relative. Maybe you have collected special items over your career, like tools or professional books and you’d like to make sure they go to a young person entering your profession. 

Either way, it’s a thoughtful way of making sure something of value to you continues to provide value to someone else.

How much should I give?

You can give as much or as little as you like – there are no rules. Often people wonder how they decide on a gift amount if they don’t know how much will be left in their estate at the time of their death. Instead of specifying a fixed amount, you have the option to specify the proportions for distributing the gift. For example, you might choose to leave 10% of your savings to Charity A, 20% to Charity B, and the rest to be evenly divided up amongst your children.

What types of bequests are there?

There are lots of different ways to consider gifts.

Your whole estate

If you don’t have children or other individuals you want to leave your estate to, you can choose to gift all or part of your whole estate. In this case, once any debts and other costs related to your estate have been settled, the balance would be gifted. This would include any money and property, which the recipient could then choose to keep or sell.

The residue of your estate

This is similar to the ‘whole estate’, but allows for any other bequests to be made first and really covers the fact that none of us will really know what our estates will finally be worth before we die. Say your estate ends up being worth $5,000, and you’ve said you want $1000 to go to each of three people. The residue of your estate is then $2000. But if you’re estate ends up being worth $10,000, the three people will still get $1000, and the residue ends up being $7000.

A fixed cash amount

You can, of course, specify an exact amount of money. If you do this, you may want to choose an order your gifts are made in if it turns out there’s not enough for all the gifts to be made to the full value you’ve specified.

Property

This can include ‘real’ property, like houses as well as personal possessions and shares or bonds.

Proceeds of sales

Sometimes people may direct their executor to sell a particular item and then gift the proceeds to a person or organisation of their choice. For example, you may want to sell a vehicle and then split the proceeds between grandchildren.

So how do I actually make a bequest?

If you have already written your will, you will need to update it. If you haven’t already written your will, you need to do that and make the bequest as part of that process.

I need to write a will

You may feel confident to do this yourself or you may want help from an estate planner or your solicitor. 

If you want to try doing it yourself, Tender Funerals Canberra region is a member of a platform called Gathered Here. This is a free online will-writing service that can take as little as ten minutes to complete and makes it easy to include any charity you wish to support with a bequest. At the end, you can download a PDF to print, sign and have witnessed. 

We would, of course, love you to consider supporting Tender Funerals with a bequest to support future families using our service. Our Gathered Here page includes that option, but please rest assured it is only an option; you can still access the free will-making service without making any bequests at all. 

If you’d like to use Gathered Here to create a will, please visit https://www.gatheredhere.com.au/c/tender-canberra. 

I need to update my will

If you’d like to update your own will, here is an example of the kind of wording you would choose from:

I give, free of all duties and taxes,

  • the whole of my estate (or___________% of my estate), or
  • the residue of my estate (or____% of the residue of my estate), or
  • the sum of $___________, or my units/shares in_____________Trust/Ltd, 
  • or my real property (or ____ % of my property) situated at (address) having the title reference _____________________, or
  • the proceeds from the sale of __________ *as liquidated by the executor of the estate (*sale of a specific item such as artwork, jewellery etc.)

 to Tender Funerals Canberra Region, ABN 82 646 043 174 (or the charity or individual of your choice).

 

The key takeaways are:
  • Anyone can make bequests of any value; they are not just for the super-wealthy
  • Bequests can be cash, property or a combination
  • The value of your bequest can be set in your will, or determined as part of settling your estate
  • You need to update or make your will to officially make a bequest