When a church is named as a beneficiary in a will, the gift to the church is known as a “bequest.” The actual gift can come in various types of assets such as cash, stocks, real estate, or even personal property. The gift may also have restrictions attached in terms of how it is to be used.
It is important to note that the trustees of the church, at the direction of the charge conference, have the obligation to evaluate the bequest and to decide whether or not the church should accept it. Especially in the case of real estate, the taxes and liability that goes with the property may cause the church a financial burden rather than being a positive occurrence.
Subject to the direction of the charge conference as hereinbefore provided, the board of trustees shall receive and administer all bequests made to the local church; shall receive and administer all trusts; and shall invest all trust funds of the local church in conformity with laws of the country, state, or like political unit in which the local church is located. Nevertheless, upon notice to the board of trustees, the charge conference may delegate the power, duty, and authority to receive, administer, and invest bequests, trusts, and trust funds to the permanent endowment committee or to a local church foundation and shall do so in the case of bequests, trusts, or trust funds for which the donor has designated the committee or the local church foundation to receive, administer, or invest the same.
When such property is in the form of investable funds, the permanent endowment fund committee may consider placement for investment and administration with the United Methodist foundation serving that conference or, in the absence of such a foundation, with the United Methodist Church Foundation. A conscious effort shall be made to invest in a manner consistent with the Social Principles and the creation of an investment policy.
It is recommended that a church or agency adopt a gift acceptance policy in order for it to be guided in the acceptance or rejection of all gifts and bequests. A properly drafted policy can have the additional benefit of encouraging gifts and clearly stating how unrestricted gifts are to be applied to various aspects of the ministry of the organization.
The Foundation can provide counsel and recommendations on establishing a gift acceptance policy.
Regarding real estate gifts
Regarding narrow-purpose restrictions
Regarding difficult conditions
If there are any other questions or comments about bequests that you would like to discuss, please send us an email.
United Methodist Foundation
of Western Pennsylvania
223 Fourth Avenue, Suite 707
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
The Foundation is a ministry established to provide United Methodists with the resources to accomplish collectively more than can be accomplished alone. We act in accordance with our mission statement and a funds management approach that is based on a Biblical, theologically sound form of Christian stewardship.