Donating to Charity through a Will - Bequests

Article 22 June 2021

As experienced Wills and Estates lawyers in the St George Sutherland area, CDQ has been helping clients to prepare their Wills for many years.  Making a legally valid Will is the only way to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes, and for many of us, those wishes include supporting a charity, medical, or research organisation of their choice.

The decision to leave a gift from your Estate to a chosen charity is a way to help that organisation continue their vital work in the community, or in some cases it is a chance to ‘give back’ to the organisation for support you or a family member has received.  

Leaving a gift of a possession or money to an organisation or beneficiary of your choice is known as a bequest. 


Types of Bequest

1. A Residual Bequest

A residual bequest is a gift made to a charity, organisation or individual AFTER the remainder of your estate has been distributed to loved ones and all taxes, debts and costs associated with your estate have been covered.  This form of bequest is not a ‘fixed sum’ because it automatically adjusts as the value of the estate changes and it can either be the total amount remaining, or a percentage of the amount remaining.

2. A Pecuniary Bequest

A pecuniary bequest refers to a specific financial amount or a fixed sum of your choosing, for example, you may wish to leave $1,000 to an individual charity.  When a pecuniary bequest is made, your lawyer will simply include the relevant instructions in your Will and the charity or organisation will receive that amount upon your death.

3. A Percentage or Fractional Bequest

As the name implies, this involves dividing your Estate and allocating a percentage, or a fraction of it, to a charity, individual or organisation of your choice.  This type of bequest takes into account the changing nature or value of your estate.  For example, if your estate drops in value after you make your Will, the bequest will be a percentage of what you have left in your estate at the time of your death and not a pre-specified amount (which you may no longer have).

4. A Whole Estate Bequest

For individuals who do not have family members or friends that they wish to leave their estate to, they can elect to leave their entire estate to a charity, cause, or organisation.  This also includes people who want their estate to be used in a very specific way after their death for example, those who donate to medical research or building a hospital facility etc.


Choosing How a Bequest Will be Used

For those who do wish to leave a bequest in their Will, there is an option to make what is known as a “conditional bequest”.  This places conditions on how the bequest is to be used and the organisation will only receive the gift if they use it in the way that you have specified. 

Conditional bequests are best made in consultation with your Wills and Estates lawyer and the charity or organisation that you would like to support.  By notifying the organisation in advance of your wishes, they will be able to advise on the practicality of your bequest and you can work together with your lawyer to ensure it is a workable arrangement.

If you would like to leave a bequest in your Will, contact the Wills and Estates lawyers at CDQ to discuss your specific wishes.  We have significant experience in this particular area and will be able to ensure that your estate is distributed in the way you would like.