Beyond the contributions you may donate on a regular basis, you may have given some thought to leaving a favorite organization a bequest in your will. A distribution of assets from your estate to a charitable organization is called a charitable bequest. There are different types of bequests and each requires the use of very specific language in order to assure that your assets are precisely directed according to your wishes.

When you have decided to make a charitable bequest, the next step is to take stock of your assets. Your estate is comprised of the sum of those assets. You may be surprised just how much you have to bequeath. Your assets include your home, your automobile, insurance policies, retirement accounts, investments, bank accounts, personal property such as jewelry, art, coins, antiques, musical instruments, etc. and any cash on hand. Even those not considered wealthy can make a difference with their donation. Billions of dollars would flow to charitable causes every year if every adult in our country left a charitable bequest of just $100.

Some examples of bequests are: specific, general, residuary, contingent and a beneficiary designation. With any form of bequest, you may make your gift in your name, or you may choose to memorialize or honor a loved one.

A specific bequest makes a gift of a specific dollar amount or specific assets to the cause of your choice to be used for a specific purpose.

A general unrestricted bequest is made from the general value of your estate. A specific dollar amount or particular asset or fixed percentage of your estate is designated for the unrestricted use of the cause of your choice.

A residuary bequest makes a gift of the balance of your estate, after payment of all expenses and any amounts designated for other beneficiaries, to the cause of your choice.

A contingent bequest will result in a gift only in the event of the death of other beneficiaries or under certain conditions described in your will.

A beneficiary designation will result in a gift to the cause of your choice of your life insurance policy, retirement plans or financial accounts.

Some examples of language used to make these bequests are:

  • Specific bequest language:

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

  • General unrestricted bequest language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath to NAME OF CHARITY/LOCATION, the sum of $________ (or a description of the specific asset), for the benefit of NAME OF CHARITY and its general purposes."

  • Residuary bequest language:

"All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, I give to NAME OF CHARITY/LOCATION, for its general purposes."

  • 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 NAME OF CHARITY/LOCATION, for its general purposes."

  • Beneficiary bequest language:

Provide insurance company, administrator of retirement plan, or financial institution with the required form and the following language: "I hereby designate NAME OF CHARITY/LOCATION, a not-for-profit corporation, irrevocable beneficiary of Policy No. ______, Plan No. ______, or Account No. _____."

Please note-Examples of the language used to make a bequest are provided only as a general guide and are not meant to substitute for the advice of an attorney.

If you do not have a will, there will be no mechanism in place to assure that your wishes are honored.

When you have made the decision to bequeath all or a portion of your assets to one or more charitable institutions you will need to:

Make a list of all those organizations that you wish to benefit, with their complete names and addresses. It is very important to accurately name the recipient. Many organizations have similar names and your bequest could go to the wrong organization. Also, you may wish your bequest to go to a local affiliate of an organization rather than to its national headquarters.

Prepare a complete and detailed list of your assets. Once again, you may be surprised at just how much real and personal property you have to bequeath.

Make an appointment with an attorney to assist you in the preparation of your Last Will and Testament. He or she will be able to guide you through the process of giving to the causes you support. If you do not have an attorney, your local Bar Association can give you a referral.

We at the World Animal Foundation hope that you will give to organizations that benefit animals. We welcome your gifts to our organization now and as gifts bequeathed, but however and wherever you choose to give, please do your homework and make your gift count. There are so many animals to help and in so many ways. Still, no gift is too small and any amount of help can make a difference.

World Animal Foundation, Inc. is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductable as allowed by law.