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Although a bequest is literally a gift specified in your will or codicil, today the term is widely used to include charitable gifts from a variety of estate-planning arrangements, including:

  • lifetime revocable trusts, also called "living trusts"
  • "payable (or transfer) on death" arrangements
  • retirement plans, such as IRAs, 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans
  • life insurance policies, including whole-life and group plans

Benefits to donors

  • Bequests to Curtis are charitable gifts deductible for federal estate tax purpose. At the state level, these gifts are not subject to estate and inheritance taxes.
  • Because gifts at death to Curtis from qualified retirement plans avoid both income and estate taxes, the tax savings may be considerable.
  • In most cases, bequests are "revocable" - you can make changes if your circumstances change.
  • Those who inform Curtis now of their plans to leave a bequest to the school or to name the school as a beneficiary are recognized and honored as members of the Founder's Society.

Types of bequests

  • Specific bequests are gifts made in a will of a specified amount of money or a designated asset, such as 100 shares of a specific stock. For example: "I give $50,000 to the Curtis Institute of Music, now having its principal offices at 1726 Locust Street, for its general purposes."
  • Residuary bequests are gifts of a percentage of the donor’s estate after payment of specific bequests, debts, estate-administration expenses, and taxes. For example: "I give the residue of my estate to the Curtis Institute of Music, now having its principal offices at 1726 Locust Street, for its general purposes."
  • Retirement plans always allow "named beneficiaries."  You can name Curtis to receive all or a part of the proceeds. Keep in mind that in most cases, your spouse must agree and consent if someone other than him or her is named as beneficiary of a qualified retirement plan.
  • Life insurance policies also provide for "named beneficiaries." You can designate Curtis to be a primary beneficiary or a contingent beneficiary.  In addition, the policy itself can also be a completed gift to Curtis.

This information is not intended to be legal advice. Curtis encourages donors to consult their attorney and financial advisors about the application of charitable annuities, bequests, and trusts to their particular situations.

thinking about a bequest to curtis?

We encourage you to call us at Curtis to obtain current information about the school, ask about active challenge grants and discuss naming opportunites. Curtis is happy to provide the school's latest annual report and other supporting materials to help inform your decisions about gifts to the school and its endowment.  We also welcome the opportunity to meet in person with you and your attorney and/or financial advisors.


Charles Sterne III, director of principal gifts and planned giving, (215) 717-3126