How to leave a donation to charity in your Will

How to leave a charitable donation in your Will

You don’t need to run a marathon, and stretch yourself to breaking point in the process, to give money to charity. Instead, you can leave a gift legacy in your Will after you’ve actually died. This means donating either a fixed amount of money, stocks and shares or whatever’s left over when you’ve portioned off your estate accordingly. If you want to remain generous after you’re gone, here’s how to donate to a charity in your Will.

Why might I want to leave a donation to charity in my will?

Gifts in Wills are important to UK charities, and its thought without this income charities would need to cut services, and many would not exist – around 13% of all charity income in the UK comes from legacies.

There’s plenty of opportunity to consider a legacy gift in your Will. Cancer Research UK states that it gets most of its funding from legacy gifts, and the charity encourages those writing a Will to leave a donation to Cancer Research UK by offering a free Will writing service. This is is similar to organisations such as Will Aid, which partners solicitors and charities to offer a free Will writing service. You’ll then be able to make a voluntary donation to one of the charities involved.

What are the different types of gift legacy?

There are three types of gift legacy, depending on whether you want to leave a physical item or a cash gift.

Pecuniary legacy

In a pecuniary legacy you can leave a one-off cash gift to a charity. To do this, you’ll need to state in your Will that you wish to leave a specific sum of money to a particular charity. For instance, you might create a simple clause that gives £500 to the Stroke Association.

Specific legacy

Creating a specific legacy means you leave a particular item to a charity, such as property or shares. You could leave a certain amount of individual shares to a charity, or your favourite armchair, and this will be considered a specific legacy.

Residuary legacy

A residuary legacy consists of your remaining estate after debts and expenses, such as inheritance tax and funeral costs, have been taken away, and all other inheritances dished out. You can then leave the whole or a share of what’s left to charity.

Leaving a legacy to a charity’s specific campaign

You can choose a particular campaign to donate to – if Marie Curie has an ongoing campaign that has really helped you out in the past, you can either leave a gift subject to an expression of wish or make a gift conditional to the way its used. This is just the legal jargon that makes it clear you’re leaving money only to a specific campaign.

What to include in your will to make your donation valid

When leaving a donation to charity in your Will, as with all other aspects of Will writing, you’ll need to make sure it’s written in a way that makes it valid.

Jot down in the Will all the information an Executor needs to understand clearly where you want your money to go. This should include:

  • the name of the charity, spelled correctly
  • the registered charity number of the charity and its registered address
  • a receipt clause so the charity’s trustee or treasurer can accept the donation
  • a merger clause so if the charity has merged or ceases to exist, your executor can pay the legacy to the new charity or a similar charity

It’s important to clearly identify your charity – rather than simply writing ‘cancer research’ – to make the process as smooth as possible all those involved.

Changing your Will to make a charitable donation

You don’t need to write a new Will if you realise you want to leave a donation after you die. Instead, you can create a codicil to change an existing Will. This is a straightforward legal document used to make simple additions and changes, such as amending an executor or increasing a gift’s worth.

Inheritance Tax when donating to a charity in your Will

The legacy gift you leave behind might be exempt from Inheritance tax. To qualify for the Inheritance Tax exemption the charity requires a Charity Reference Number from HM Revenue & Customs.

Find out more

If you’d like to know more about the financial side of death, head to our Money Issues page.
If you’ve got more questions about legal planning, then take a look at our Legal Matters page.

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