is the act of giving (not the act of receiving) property
Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people or a legal entity like a corporation...
A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his/her property at death...
. Strictly, "bequest" is used of personal property
Personal property, roughly speaking, is private property that is moveable, as opposed to real property or real estate. In the common law systems personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In the civil law systems personal property is often called movable property or movables - any...
, and "devise" of real property
In English Common Law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is any subset of land that has been legally defined and the improvements to it made by human efforts: any buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, roads, various property rights, and so forth...
. In legal terminology, "bequeath" is a verb form meaning "to make a bequest."
(From Old English becwethan, to declare or express in words; cf. "quoth")
Part of the process of probate
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property under the valid will. A probate court decides the validity of a testator's will...
involves interpreting the instructions in a will.
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 that will be granted only if a particular event has occurred by the time of its operation. For example, a testator
A testator is a person who has written and executed a last will and testament that is in effect at the time of his/her death. It is any "person who makes a will."-Related terms:...
might write in the 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 that will be granted only if a particular event occurs in the future. For example, a testator might write in the will that "Mary will receive the house held in trust set when she marries" or "when she has children".
Microeconomics is a branch of economics that studies the behavior of how the individual modern household and firms make decisions to allocate limited resources. Typically, it applies to markets where goods or services are being bought and sold...
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
A bequest motive seeks to provide an economic justification for the phenomenon of gratuitous, intergenerational transfers of wealth. In other words, to explain why people leave money behind when they die....
For the recipient
In order to calculate a taxpayer's income tax obligation, the gross income of the taxpayer must be determined. Under Section 61 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code
The Internal Revenue Code is the domestic portion of Federal statutory tax law in the United States, published in various volumes of the United States Statutes at Large, and separately as Title 26 of the United States 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. There is great debate about whether or not bequests should be included in gross income and subject to income taxes, however there has been some type of exclusion for bequests in every Federal Income Tax Act.
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 through other mechanisms such as federal wealth transfer taxes. Wealth Transfer taxes, however, are usually imposed against only the very wealthy.