DEFINITION of 'Bequest'

The act of giving personal property or money such as stocks, bonds, jewelry and cash left to an individual or organization through the provisions of a will or estate plan. Bequests can be made to family, friends, institutions or charities. When real estate is left through a will, it is correctly called a "devise."


If estate taxes are a concern, individuals may opt to bequest assets to heirs indirectly through a gift in trust. Charitable gifts after death can also reduce estate taxes. When a bequest is left to a charity, it may be called a legacy gift. Such bequests can be important sources of fundraising for nonprofit organizations. When the bequest is intended for a specific purpose, it is called an endowment. Bequests to charity can be made directly, or indirectly through charitable trusts.