When viewed one way, the statistics are encouraging. Increasing numbers of us are leaving a gift to a charity — or charities — in our Wills.

"In April, charitable donations in Wills reached £2.5 billion."

According to figures published in May by legacy market analysts, Legacy Foresight, , this type of charitable giving grew by 6.3 per cent in the 12 months to March 2017. And in April, a major milestone was announced: charitable donations in Wills had significantly increased, growing by 39 per cent over five years to reach £2.5 billion.

This is good news for charities, many of whom rely on gifts left in Wills in order to carry on their vital work — or to survive. Figures from ACEVO, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), the Institute of Fundraising and CharityComms, estimated that charities in England and Wales alone spend £136.4 million – that's £1,578 per second – improving lives and helping communities.

 

Dying without a Will

 

Unfortunately, there is a 'but'. To leave a gift to a charity in your Will, you have to have made one in the first place.

But not all of us do. In fact it's estimated that four out of 10 of us die without making a Will, a figure which Rob Cope finds incredible.

"Four out of 10 of us die without making a Will."

“A Will is one of the most important documents we will ever write,” says Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, a coalition of charities set up in 2000 to encourage legacy giving. “Without it, we die intestate, which means the law gets to determine how our assets and possessions are distributed. Our loved ones then have to go through a difficult, messy and protracted legal process in order to sort out our affairs after our death.”

"Talking about death is a taboo, but it's time we weren't so British about it."

The trouble is, death is a delicate subject and, for some of us, talking about it is taboo. But, says Cope, it's time we weren't so British about it. That means don't be shy or coy about talking to your nearest and dearest about what you want to happen after your death.

“We all need to have a proper conversation with our family to make our wishes clear to them,” says Cope. “Often people are very closed about this subject. Yet we need to talk about it because more Wills are being contested than ever before.”

 

 

Don't leave anything to chance

 

Once you have had the conversation with your loved ones, it's important to follow through and actually make a Will. This has become easier to do recently, notes Cope.

“Think of all the things you benefit from in your life that charities provide, and then imagine if that stopped due to lack of funding.”

“People can make a Will over the phone, online or face-to-face,” he says. “But — and this is vital — a Will must be written in a robust, professional manner, which we feel is always done best by a solicitor or professional Will writer. This is an area where you shouldn't leave anything to chance.” It's also easy to do and inexpensive, and the peace of mind it gives is invaluable.

When it comes to leaving a charitable gift in your Will, a common misconception is that you have to be rich to do so. Yet nothing could be further from the truth says Cope: any amount — big or small — will be gratefully received and help ensure that charities can continue their work after you have gone.

“Think of all the things you benefit from in your lifetime that they provide and then imagine if their work stopped because of lack of funding,” says Cope. This includes everything from medical research and protection of buildings and places of outstanding natural beauty to lifeboat launches and local schools and museums. “All of these things and more are funded by gifts in Wills,” says Cope.

 

How to choose your charities

 

Another myth is that you can only leave a gift to one good cause in your Will, however you can include gifts  to any number of organisations, be they large and international or small and local. The charity sector is a crowded field, so deciding who to leave a gift to may seem daunting, but Cope has some good advice.

“Think of your Will as a cake,” he says. “Give nearly all of the cake to your family and friends, but a small slice left over can be given to a charity or charities. The best way to choose is to think of a good cause that has benefitted you or your family in some way. Leaving a gift to them is a good way to say 'thank you' for what they have done for you in your lifetime.”