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 a very specific language to indicate the precise direction of your assets, and to successfully carry out your final wishes. In any charitable bequest, be sure to name the recipient accurately.
Do you have an Estate?
Your "estate" is the sum of your assets, including property you own, insurance policies, retirement accounts, cash on hand, etc. Wealthy people may have very large estates, but even people who aren't wealthy often have the resources to make a charitable bequest. If every adult in Canada made a will and included a bequest of just $100, billions of dollars would flow to charitable causes every year.
Below, we have listed some of the more common kinds of bequests, and some bequest language. We always recommend that you carefully review the terms of your will with a professional trained in handling trusts and estates.
1. General Bequest language:
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.
"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."
2. Special Bequest language:
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 eduation; dollar funds to be used for the purpose of medical equipment
"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."
3. Residuary Bequest language:
Residuary Bequests are made when you intend to leave the residue portion of your assets after other terms of the will have been satisfied.
"All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, I give to NAME OF CHARITY/LOCATION, for its general purposes."
4. Contingency Bequest language:
Contingency Bequests allow you to leave a portion of your estate to a particular charity if your named beneficiary does not survive you.
"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."
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.
Purpose of the Bequest
"...to be used for the general purposes of Sault Area Hospital Foundation." [May also add, "... at the discretion of the Board of Directors."] "...to be used for education in _________________ (e.g. Cancer Care)." "...to be used for ______________________ (e.g. Surgical Care)."
Power to Vary Provision
It is recommended that the following paragraph be added if the bequest is for a restricted use to grant power to vary provision. "If, in the opinion of the Board of Directors of the Sault Area Hospital Foundation, it should become impossible, inadvisable, or impractical to use this gift for the specified purpose(s), then the Board may in its discretion use the gift to the best advantage of the Sault Area Hospital, keeping in mind the original wishes of the donor. In any such alternative application, the support provided by this bequest shall be clearly identified with the name of (name of individual)."