Leaving a charitable gift in your Will is so easy to do, says Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity. Of course, in order to do it, you actually have to have a Will to begin with — and a shockingly high number of us don't.

In fact, two-thirds of adults in the UK are currently without a Will — a statistic that never ceases to amaze Cope. “Making a Will isn't expensive,” he says. “It usually costs around £150, which is money well spent because it offers real peace of mind. We'll happily pay £150 for theatre tickets or to get our car serviced, but we baulk at the idea of spending that amount on one of the most important legal documents we'll ever have.” If we don't have a Will, we die intestate, so the law gets to decide how our assets and possessions are distributed.

Cope does, however, understand the reasons for numbers being so low. “We put it off,” he says simply. “Making a Will is not at the top of our 'to do' list, so it gets forgotten about. Plus, this is a subject that some of us find emotionally difficult, because it means confronting the final chapter of our lives.” Yet it needn't be a gloomy process, he insists. “When I wrote my Will, I thought that remembering my family and favourite charities was a really nice thing to do,” says Cope. “It didn't make me sad. It made me feel good.”

 

Hire a professional, don’t do it yourself

 

Perhaps people are also put off because they think that writing a Will is time-consuming. But it just isn't. The most popular route is to make an appointment with a solicitor; although some providers offer online or over-the-phone Will writing services.

However, it is important to stress that you should never attempt to write a Will yourself, warns Cope. “Always get a professional and reputable Will writer to draw up a properly written document for you,” he says. “No-one benefits from a badly written Will that can be contested — and certainly not your loved ones or the charities that would otherwise benefit from it.”

Another conundrum is choosing the charities you want to remember in your Will. There are so many of them, after all, and they all rely on donations to carry out their crucial work. So, Cope suggests leaving a gift to those organisations that have meant something special to you during your lifetime. Perhaps they supported you or a loved one in a time of crisis, or represent a cause you feel particularly passionate about.

 

Do your own research into Will-writing

 

If a charity is new to you, find out about their aims, achievements and how they operate by reading about them on their websites. “If this information isn't obvious, call them direct and say that you're considering leaving them a gift in your Will, but want more information first,” says Cope. “Ask them to tell you how they spend the donations they receive from the public — and why your gift could make a difference to them.”

There's never been a better time to leave a gift in your Will. Thanks to the UK's generous system of tax relief, any gift left to charity in a Will is currently exempt from inheritance tax (which is charged at 40%); and when 10% or more of an estate is donated to a charity in a Will, a lower rate of tax (36%) is applied. A review of inheritance tax by the The Office of Tax Simplification is expected by the end of the year.

Of course, there's no hard and fast rule about the amount you should leave to your favourite charities; but Cope is at pains to point out that, when writing your Will, you should always ensure your family and friends are taken care of first. “After that, leave whatever is the right amount for you,” he says. “You could leave 99% of your estate to your loved ones and then 1% to your favourite charities. That might not sound like much, but even a small amount can make a big difference.”