Leaving the right gift in your will, and how to do it
Leaving a legacy Everyone should have a will, but not many of us do. Yet it's quick to draw up and easy to include a much-needed gift to the charity, or charities, of your choice.
There are a huge number of charities operating in the UK alone, and they all need funds and donations to survive. So how do you choose which one — or ones — to support?
This is where you have to consider which issues have touched a chord with you in your life, or have affected you or your loved ones. For example, it might be a research charity, a poverty charity or an animal charity. It's a very personal decision and different people will have different ideas. You don't have to support just one good cause, however. You can leave a gift to any number of charities, be they big international organisations or small, local ones.
Most people who leave a charitable gift in their wills divide donations between approximately three charities. “If you're considering who to leave a donation to, ask yourself which three charitable services — the ones that benefited you and your family over the course of your lifetime — would you vote for?” says Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity. “Who would you give that special gift to so that their services can continue to do good in the world?”
Get a clearer picture
Try to also do your own research and read up about the charities you are thinking of supporting. What are their aims? What have their achievements been over the years? How do they operate? If this isn't clear from their websites, then call them direct and tell them that you are considering leaving a legacy donation, but want more information about them. That should give you a much clearer picture.
The other issue is the size of your gift. When weighing this up, it might help to think of your estate like a cake. “Make sure you take a big slice for your loved ones, friends and those people who have been important to you in your life,” says Cope. “You can then donate that last slice of cake — whatever size it is — to your favourite charities, knowing that your gift can help make a real difference to people's lives.”
The importance of a will
Of course, none of this can be achieved if you do not have a will.
Making a will is a supremely sensible thing to do. That's because if you die without one, you will have died intestate, and the law will determine how your assets and possessions are distributed.
“If you have no living family members, all your property and possessions will go to the crown,” says Cope. “If you have children under 18, other people can make decisions about who looks after them, and how their finances and education are managed. People lead complicated lives these days: they remarry and have different family structures, so it's even more important to get your affairs in order. This is important stuff. A will is not a nice-to-have. It's a must-have.”
Easy and inexpensive
It's therefore surprising to discover that, according to a YouGov survey, nearly two-thirds of British adults have not made a will. What's putting us off?
Cope thinks there are two main reasons. First, making a will forces people to think about the biggest issue of all: death. Nevertheless, it means that the loved ones they leave behind won't have to undertake a difficult and protracted legal process to sort out their affairs. Secondly, he says, there's a misconception that it's a complicated business that's expensive and time-consuming to arrange. “Actually, it's easy to do and inexpensive,” he says. “You don't have to go into a solicitor's office these days — you can write your will over the phone. Some people even offer the service online. But so long as it's done with a creditable organisation — a member of the Law Society or the Institute of Professional Will Writers (IPW) — then it will give you peace of mind.” Do ask a professional, however, and don't attempt to write your will yourself.