A sum of money made available upon the donor's death by provision in their will. Many people leave bequests to charities. Many charitable foundations in Australia have been established by bequest.
It is currently estimated that only about 7% of wills in Australia contain a charitable bequest.
Leaving a bequest to charity means that you have the use of your funds or property during your lifetime, and leave part or all of your money or property to a charity after your death. You may choose to leave a particular asset or a specified sum of money to your chosen charity or charities, or you can leave a percentage of your total estate, or a percentage of the residue of your estate, which means that you can ensure family and friends are provided for as well as benefiting the charity of your choice.
You may choose to leave your bequest freely - "no strings attached" - so that the charity can apply the money to the area of most need.
It is also possible to leave a bequest with a specification that it is used for a particular purpose - for example, to establish a scholarship for rural students. In this case, it is important to ensure that you are not leaving the charity more trouble than assistance. Making a bequest of a historic building or other property, specifying that it must be used for a particular purpose, but not leaving any money for the maintenance and rates can be placing a burden upon that charity. It may be wise to speak to the charity beforehand to discuss your plans.
In their 2008 research report Every Player Wins a Prize?, the Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies questioned legal practitioners about their experiences with bequests.
Comments from legal practitioners included:
- Wills containing charitable bequests are exceptions to the norm
- Most bequests are based either in personal 'stories' such as family illnesses, personal connections with the charities concerned, or with media coverage of discrete events which highlighted the work of a particular charity
- Few clients ask legal practitioners for advice on charitable bequests, most already having a specific charity in mind when they make their will, and practitioners stress that it would be ethically improper to offer such advice
- Many practitioners feel that advertising by charities in legal journals is a waste of time and money
- Most practitioners feel that charity websites are poorly designed, particularly in relation to finding whether a charity had deductible gift recipient status
This is one example of a suggested wording for a bequest, but it is only a suggestion. Many charities will be able to offer a specific wording for a bequest to themselves, and your solicitor will also be able to assist you in this regard.
"I bequeath to (name of charity) of (address of charity) for its general purposes [(the whole) or (a specific amount or gift) or (a percentage) or (the residue)] of my estate free of all duties, and I declare that the receipt of its treasurer or other authorised officer shall be sufficient discharge to my executor.”
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