AskDefine | Define bequeath

Dictionary Definition

bequeath v : leave or give by will after one's death; "My aunt bequeathed me all her jewelry"; "My grandfather left me his entire estate" [syn: will, leave] [ant: disinherit]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English becwēþan



  1. To give or leave by will; to give by testament; -- said especially of personal property.
  2. To hand down; to transmit.
  3. To give; to offer; to commit.


to give or leave by will
  • Finnish: testamentata
to hand down; to transmit
  • Finnish: luovuttaa
  • Italian: trasmettere
to give; to offer; to commit
  • Finnish: luovuttaa

Extensive Definition

A bequest is the act of giving property by will. Strictly, "bequest" is used of personal property, and "devise" of real property. It means the same thing as bequeath in legal terminology.
(From Old English becwethan, to declare or express in words; cf. "quoth")

Interpreting bequests

Part of the process of probate involves interpreting the instructions in a will. It means the same thing as bequeath in legal terminology.
Some wordings that define the scope of a bequest have specific interpretations. "All the estate I own" would involve all of the decedent's possessions at the moment of death.
A conditional bequest is a bequest which will only be granted if a particular event has occurred by the time of its operation. For example, a testator might write in their will that "Mary will receive the house held in trust if she is married" or "...if she has children," etc.
An executory bequest is a bequest which will be granted when a particular event occurs in the future, if it happens. For example, a testator might write in their will that "Mary will receive the house held in trust set when she marries" or "when she has children," etc.

Explaining bequests

In microeconomics theorists have engaged the issue of bequest from the perspective of consumption theory, in which they seek to explain the phenomenon in terms of a bequest motive.

Tax Consequences

For the Recipient

In order to calculate a taxpayer's income tax obligation, the gross income of the tax payer must be determined. Under Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code gross income is "all income from whatever source derived". On its face, the receipt of a bequest would seemingly fall within gross income and thus be subject to tax. However, in other sections of the code, exceptions are made for a variety of things that do not need to be included in gross income. Section 102(a) of the Code makes an exception for bequests stating that "Gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift, bequest, or inheritance." In general this means that the value or amount of the bequest does not need to be included in a taxpayer's gross income. This rule is not exclusive, however, and there are some exceptions under Section 102(b) of the code where the amount of value must be included.

For the Donor

One reason that the recipient of a bequest is usually not taxed on the bequest is because the donor may be taxed on it. Donors of bequests may be taxed in through other mechanisms such as federal wealth transfer taxes. Wealth Transfer taxes, however, are usually only imposed against the very wealthy.


Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abalienate, add a codicil, alien, alienate, amortize, assign, barter, cede, confer, consign, convey, deed, deed over, deliver, demise, devise, devolve upon, enfeoff, entail, exchange, execute a will, give, give title to, hand, hand down, hand on, hand over, leave, legate, make a bequest, make a will, make over, negotiate, pass, pass on, pass over, sell, settle, settle on, sign away, sign over, surrender, trade, transfer, transmit, turn over, will, will and bequeath, will to
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