• James D. Lynch

Is There a Difference Between a Devise and a Bequest?

A will may contain language saying "I give and devise" or "I give and bequeath" a certain piece of property to someone. What is the difference between these two phrases?

Traditionally, a “devise” referred to a gift by will of real property. The beneficiary of a devise is called a devisee. In contrast, a “bequest” referred to a gift by will of personal property or any other property that is not real property. This distinction was historically made because the laws for passing real property and personal property upon death were different.

Modernly, the laws in most jurisdictions treat real and personal property the same, so the distinction is no longer significant. The U.S. Uniform Probate Code even uses “devise” to denote both real and personal property.

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