Like most areas of the law, estate planning includes concepts and legal jargon with which the average person is unfamiliar. For example, the words “bequest” and “inheritance” are often used interchangeably when, in fact, they are not always synonymous. To help you understand both terms, the Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain the difference between a bequest and an inheritance.
What Is an “Inheritance?”
While it may sound like the answer to one of those logic problems used in standardized testing, a bequest is an inheritance but an inheritance is not always a bequest. An “inheritance” refers to assets, whether tangible or intangible, that are gifted to you after someone dies. An inheritance could be cash, real property, personal property, or a variety of other things. An inheritance can be in the form of a bequest in a Last Will and Testament but can also take the form of a provision in a trust or because you are a legal heir to the estate.
Some people choose to use a trust as the primary method of distributing their estate. A trust is a relationship whereby property is held by one party for the benefit of another (or others). Trusts are broadly divided into living trusts and testamentary trusts with the former activating during the lifetime of the Settlor (the creator of the trust) and the latter typically being activated at the time of the Settlor’s death by a provision in the Settlor’s Will. If you are named as the beneficiary of a trust that distributes assets to you after the death of the Settlor, those assets would be considered an inheritance – but not a bequest.
If someone dies intestate, or without a Will or trust in place, the California intestate succession laws determine how the decedent’s assets are distributed. In that case, only legal heirs to the estate will inherit assets. Which (if any) heirs survive the decedent determines who receives an “inheritance” as follows:
- Children but no spouse. Children inherit the entire estate
- Spouse but no children, parents, siblings, or nieces or nephews. Spouse inherits the entire estate
- Parents, but no children, spouse, or siblings. Parents inherit the entire estate
- Siblings, but no children, spouse, or parents. Siblings inherit the entire estate
- Spouse and one child or grandchild. Spouse inherits all community property and 1/2 of separate property
- Spouse and two or more children. Spouse inherits all community property and 1/3 of separate property and the children inherit 2/3 of separate property
- Spouse and one child and one or more grandchildren from a deceased child. Spouse inherits all community property and 1/3 of separate property and children inherit 2/3 of separate property
- Spouse and two or more grandchildren from a deceased child. Spouse inherits 1/3 of separate property and children inherit 2/3 of separate property
- Spouse and parents. Spouse inherits all community property and 1/2 of separate property and parents inherit 1/2 of separate property
- Spouse and siblings, but no parents. Spouse inherits all community property and 1/2 of separate property and siblings inherit 1/2 of separate property
What Is a “Bequest?”
A bequest is a gift made in a Last Will and Testament. That gift is an inheritance, but not all inheritances are made via a bequest. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that is used to express an individual’s wishes regarding his/her estate assets and what should be done with them upon the Testator’s (creator of the Will) death. Bequests made in a Will may be general (such as “half my estate”) or specific (such as “my art collection”) and may be made to an unlimited number of beneficiaries.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.