Testamentary Gift Law and Legal Definition

Testamentary gift is a gift made by will. Such gifts do not become effective until the death of the donor. The ownership of the gift is transferred to the donee only after the testator’s death.

There are two terms used to refer testamentary gifts, a devise and a bequest. A devise is where the gift is of real property (e.g., land) while a bequest is where the gift is of personal property. While most state laws and courts do not really make a distinction between the terms “devise” and “bequest” anymore, some still do.

Testamentary gifts may be of three types: specific gifts, general gifts, and residuary gifts. Devise and bequest are the two terms used to refer to testamentary gifts. The term ‘devise’ is used to refer to testamentary gifts of real property. And, the term ‘bequest’ is used to refer to gifts of personal property. Today, most state courts do not make a distinction between the terms. However, there are states which still differentiate between the two.