No one likes to talk about what life might be like after they're gone. In fact, the very idea of being gone can be uncomfortable to even think about. But as much as our mortality may fill us with discomfort, sadness, or a whole host of other emotions, it is a fact of life. There is no avoiding it. It is only something that we can prepare for.
One of the best ways to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after you're gone is to have a Will in place. A Will enables you to take stock of everything you have accomplished in your life and the loved ones who have been by your side through it all. A Will allows you to make your wishes known. Decide who will handle your affairs, instructions for what should happen in a medical emergency, and of course, determining how to distribute the assets you leave behind and to whom.
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In this guide, we'll discuss listing General Bequests in a Will, how they are different from other Bequests, and naming Beneficiaries for General Bequests.
What is a General Bequest?
A General Bequest is a monetary gift of a specific amount made to a single person through a Will. Unlike Demonstrative Bequests, which are also usually monetary, General Bequests are paid from an Estate's general assets rather than from a specific source or account.
For example, if you wanted to leave your great-niece $15,000 in your Will, you would state, "I hereby leave $15,000 to [state full legal name here]." to make a General Bequest. If you were to state, "I hereby leave $15,000 to my [state full legal name here], paid from my Bank of America checking account," that would make it a Demonstrative Bequest.
There is no need to include your relationship with a Beneficiary. Just a full legal name is sufficient. Keeping it to only their name can even help your Will go through Probate faster, as there is no room for any of your wishes to be misunderstood. Which great-niece did you actually mean to leave that $15,000 to, anyway? You may think there's no room for confusion, but when money or sentimental heirlooms are involved, never underestimate someone's
General Bequests are almost always gifts of money. However, a Testator, the person writing the Will, can also make General Bequests of other securities:
Equity securities — stocks
Debt securities — bonds and banknotes
Derivatives — stock option contracts
What to Know About General Bequests
General Bequests may seem like a straightforward way to leave assets to your Heirs. But just because something is general doesn't always mean it's appropriate. Just like all other types of Bequests, there are circumstances when you should make a General Bequest and when another kind of Bequest better suits your financial plan.
Here's what you should know about General Bequests as you write your Will.
Demonstrative vs. General: Differences in Monetary Bequests
General Bequests differ from other types because they are almost always financial gifts. But unlike Demonstrative Bequests, which are also usually monetary, General Bequests are paid from an Estate's general assets rather than from a specific source or account.
For example, if you wanted to leave $25,000 to your son in your Will but didn't specify which account you wanted it paid out from, that would be a General Bequest. But if you wanted to leave $25,000 to your son and you wanted it paid from your personal savings account, that specification would make it a Demonstrative Bequest.
One way that a Demonstrative Bequest can become a General Bequest is through Ademption. Ademption occurs when an asset named in a Will is no longer owned by the Estate. Say, for instance, that you intend to leave each of your children $10,000 paid out of a separate retirement account. But what if you end up closing that account before your death and don't update your Will? Good news: your Demonstrative Bequest of $10,000 to each of your children paid out of a separate retirement account becomes $10,000 paid out of the general assets of your Estate.
Naming Beneficiaries for General Bequests
Writing a Will comes with many important decisions to make. Topping the list, of course, are those who will inherit the money and tangible assets that make up your Estate.
While anyone can be a Beneficiary, not everyone is an appropriate choice. Minor children, for one, don't make great Beneficiaries. Yes, even if they're your children.
When children under 18 years of age are named Beneficiaries of General Bequests, a Probate Court Judge will need to appoint someone to look after the funds until your child comes of age to receive them. Even after they've reached adulthood, they may still not be ready for the responsibility that comes with inheriting a large sum of money. As it turns out, when someone who has never had money suddenly gets some, they tend not to spend it wisely. Who knew, right? But this can also become an expensive legal hangup.
Of course, if you have minor children, you want to make sure that they are cared for if you aren't there to take care of them yourself. To do this, you can easily make a General Bequest to the person you have named as your children's Legal Guardian in the Will.
A Trust-Based Estate Plan is a better way to secure your child's future. A Revocable Living Trust allows you to set aside money and assets for your minor children until they reach adulthood. You may also leave special instructions for when your children can legally inherit the funds you bequeath to them, whether that is when they turn 18, 21, or upon reaching a milestone, like finishing college, getting married, or the birth of a child.
Having a Will doesn't just ensure that your Heirs get what you intend for them to have after you're gone. A Will protects your last wishes, your assets, and your entire Estate. Trust & Will can help you take control of your future with state-specific legal documents drafted by expert attorneys to make sure that you and your family's future is secure.