Difference Between Bequest and Gift

By: | Updated: Oct-16, 2022
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Bequest and gift are two different types of legal relationships in which one person transfers his/her property to another person, and the latter may receive the property or a portion thereof in return.

Summary Table

Bequest Gift
Must be made in a legal way (through will or inheritance) Doesn’t have to be involved with the law
Can be evoked Generally is not required to be given back

Difference Between Bequest and Gift


A bequest is a transfer of property that takes place when the owner dies and he/she does not leave any will or other documents that indicate how he/she wants his/her property to be transferred.

A gift is a transfer of property that takes place when there is an agreement between the owner and the person who receives it. The person who gives the gift should be well aware of the value and nature of the gift.

A gift should also be an unconditional gift; that is, if there is an obligation on behalf of the recipient to return it to its donor, this should not affect its character as a gift.

Difference Between Bequest and Gift

The main difference between bequest and gift lies in their respective purposes. Whereas a bequest has as its main purpose to give a legacy or assets at death, gifts are generally made for gratuitous reasons.

Thus, gifts have no right to receive anything in return, unlike bequests which often have strict terms requiring that they be returned at death (e.g., a life-interest bequest or an executor bequest).

A gift, unlike a bequest, may also be revoked by the donor at any time, and it is the recipient who is bound to give the donor back what was given.

The legal definition of a gift does not always coincide with the common understanding of the word. According to legal rules, a gift is not necessarily given to someone for no reason at all.

The recipient of a gift may be under an obligation to return it, or the donor may even have the right to make changes to the gift at any time.

The main difference between a bequest and a gift is that, in the case of a bequest, it must be made through formal documents such as a will or trust. On the other hand, gifts are not always made through formal documents and can also take place orally.

There are many cases when gifts are made without any written agreement between the parties. In these cases, gifts will generally not require that they be returned upon death if there is no other legal requirement that they should be returned.

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