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Charitable Bequests

There are numerous ways to leave money to non-profits while still getting significant tax breaks, and in some cases generating income for you or your family while you are alive. One of the simplest—and often most overlooked—ways to make sure your charitable legacy lives on after you are gone is a "bequest," a gift to charity at your death, typically made through your will.

A charitable bequest is simply a distribution from your estate to a charitable organization through your last will and testament. There are different kinds of bequests. For each, you must use very specific language to indicate the precise direction of your assets, and to successfully carry out your final wishes.

Below, we have listed some of the more common kinds of bequests, and some general bequest language. We always recommend that you carefully review the terms of your will with a professional trained in handling trusts and estates.

General Bequests are legacies left to certain people or causes that come from the general value of the estate, and are made by designating a specific dollar amount, a particular asset or a fixed percentage of your estate to the cause of your choice.

Sample general bequest language: "I give, devise, and bequeath to Brookhaven Academy, the sum of $________(or a description of the specific asset), for the benefit of Brookhaven Academy and its general purposes."

Specific Bequests are made when a particular item or property is bequeathed for a designated purpose. (i.e., instruments bequeathed to the local school district for use in music education; dollar funds to be used in the operation of a school or church.)

Sample specific bequest language: "I give, devise, and bequeath to Brookhaven Academy, the sum of $_______ (or a description of a specific asset), for the benefit of Brookhaven Academy to be used for the following purpose: (state the purpose). If at any time in the judgment of the trustees of Brookhaven Academy it is impossible or impracticable to carry out exactly the designated purpose, they shall determine an alternative purpose closest to the designated purpose."

Residuary Bequests are made when you intend to leave the residue portion of your assets after other terms of the will have been satisfied.

Sample residuary bequest language: "All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, I give to Brookhaven Academy, for its general purposes."

Contingency Bequests allow you to leave a portion of your estate to a particular charity if your named beneficiary does not survive you.

Sample contingency bequest language: "I devise and bequeath the residue of the property, real and personal and wherever situated, owned by me at my death, to (name of beneficiary), if (she/he) survives me. If (name of beneficiary) does not survive me, I devise and bequeath my residuary estate to Brookhaven Academy, for its general purposes."

*Without a will, there is no mechanism in place to make a bequest, so here are the steps you should take to make sure your wishes are granted.Make an appointment with your financial analyst or attorney and These professionals will help sensitively guide you through the process.

In 2013, the average US charitable bequest was worth $32,000.