Specific Bequests

Specific Bequests

Occasionally, a person will want to leave a little something to a friend or charity, and the rest to the family. This can be done with a specific bequest, such as, "$1,000 to my dear friend Martha Jones." There could be a problem if, at the time of a person's death, there was not anything left after the specific bequests.

Example: At the time of making his will, Todd had $2,000,000 in assets. He felt generous, so he left $50,000 to a local hospital, $50,000 to a local group that took care of homeless animals, and the rest to his children. Unfortunately, several years later, the value of his stock had declined. When he passed away, Todd’s estate was worth only $110,000, so after the specific bequests, and the legal fees and expenses of probate, there was nothing left for his five children.

Another problem with specific bequests is that some of the property may be worth considerably more or less at death than when the will was made.

Example: Joe wanted his two children to equally share his estate. His will left his son his stocks (worth $500,000 at the time) and his daughter $500,000 in cash. By the time of Joe's death, the stock was only worth $100,000. He could have left 50% of his estate to each child and accomplished his goal.

Note: If giving certain things to certain people is an important part of your estate plan, you can give specific items to specific persons, but remember to make changes if your assets change.

Joint Bequest

Be careful about leaving one item of personal property to more than one person. Whenever possible, leave property to one person.

Example: If you leave something to your son and his wife, what would happen if they divorce? Even if you leave something to two of your own children, what if they cannot agree about who will have possession of it?