Yahoo’s recent article entitled “Bequests vs. Gifts: Which One Do I Need?” explains that a bequest is the personal property given to beneficiaries through the terms of a will when the original owner dies. A bequest can be cash, stocks, bonds, art, jewelry, or other personal items. However, it can’t be real estate: when real estate is given to another person through a will or trust, it’s known as a devise.
There are four distinct types of bequests: specific, general, demonstrative and residuary. A specific bequest is the transfer of a particular asset, like jewelry, artwork, or automobiles, to a specific person. A general bequest is a gift, typically money, given from the person’s general assets (rather than from a specific asset). A demonstrative bequest is a gift that comes from a stated source like a bank account or retirement fund. Finally, a residuary bequest is a gift made after all debts are paid by the estate and other bequests are made.
You can also direct assets to be left to a nonprofit organization, like a religious or educational institution, as a charitable bequest. Charitable bequests can be specific, general, demonstrative, or residuary.
What distinguishes a bequest from a gift is when and how it’s given. While a bequest is property a person leaves to a beneficiary through a will following their death, a gift is given when someone is still alive.
When a person dies, their estate may be subject to one or more taxes called “death taxes.” These include the federal estate tax, state estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. However, most Americans don’t have to worry about paying federal estate taxes because they only apply to estates worth more than $12.92 million per individual ($25.84 million for married couples). Estates below this are exempt from this tax. Estates that exceed the exemption limit are taxed based on how far over the cap they go.
In addition to the federal taxes, some states charge their own estate taxes with separate exemption limits and rates. These states are Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Finally, a few states have inheritance taxes, which are paid by beneficiaries who inherit property. This is different from estate taxes, which are paid by the estates themselves before property is transferred to beneficiaries. The states with inheritance taxes are Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The Iowa state legislature voted to repeal its inheritance tax in 2021, and the tax will be gradually phased out until it is fully repealed in 2025.
Reference: Yahoo (Jan. 16, 2023) “Bequests vs. Gifts: Which One Do I Need?”