James Antoniou, head of wills at Co-op Legal Services, explains how you can make charitable donations and gifts in your will.
What can you leave to charity?
The amounts being left to charities is on the rise.
According to Co-op Legal Services, there has been a 53% jump in the number of people leaving gifts to charities in their wills over the last 12 months.
It’s possible to leave anything that’s in a person’s estate to a charity including property, land, shares or a specific item such as an item of jewellery or a piece of art. Or, you could leave a percentage of your estate to a charity.
If you would like the charity to use the inheritance for a particular purpose, then you should discuss this with them in advance to make sure it’s feasible.
Generally speaking, a gift to charity in someone’s will is exempt from Inheritance Tax or can cut your overall tax bill if you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity.
But anyone considering doing this needs to ensure that the charity is a qualifying one. This can be confirmed by asking the charity for their tax-exempt reference number.
Choosing a charity
Choosing which charity to include is a very personal choice – you might have a connection with a particular charity – perhaps because it’s helped you or a loved one in the past. Or you might just want to help local or national causes.
You can choose more than one charity to benefit as there isn’t a limit on the number of charities a person can leave a gift in their will to.
Whatever your motivation, you need to ensure your wishes are officially recorded in your will and the charity concerned is correctly identified using their registered charity number.
This can usually be found on the charity’s website.
If you simply tell your friends and family members that you’d like a donation to be made from your estate after your death, there’s no guarantee that it will happen.
Anyone thinking about leaving a gift to charity in their will can visit the Charity Commission's website for a full list of all charities registered in England and Wales.
Which charities are most popular?
Co-op’s business data highlights whilst clients are choosing to leave gifts most frequently to charities that tackle cancer, animal charities are also popular.
The ten charity categories which Co-op’s clients most frequently choose to leave gifts to are:
- Cancer charities
- Animal charities
- International charities
- Children's charities
- Health, wellbeing and local causes
- Help for the elderly
- Rescue organisations
- Religious causes
- Poverty and homelessness
Can your will be challenged after your death?
Yes – all wills can be challenged. Nothing can prevent someone from trying to invalidate it.
But the real question is ‘can my will be successfully challenged?’ and this can vary.
If your will includes your nearest relatives and dependents such as your husband, wife or civil partner and your children, there is little reason why your will should be challenged.
But, if you exclude someone who might expect to benefit from your will or if there is a suggestion that you do not have mental capacity or have been influenced or coerced, then there is a real possibility your will could be challenged.
You can try to avoid any disharmony by talking to your family and loved ones about your will. This is particularly important if you are going to exclude them as it prevents questions about your motivation after you’ve died.
Alternatively, you could write a letter to your executors, which sets out the reasons why you’ve excluded a particular person from the will. This can be stored with your will.
Keep your will stored safely
Whilst making sure your will is made and up to date is really important, you should also let your loved ones know where your will is kept.
If something does happen, they know where to find it, or at least who to ask. It is no use having a will if no-one can find it.
Don’t keep your will in a bank safety deposit box.
When you die, no-one can access your bank account or deposit box without first getting probate (if required) and this could potentially hamper access to your will.
Don’t get tied into paying a storage fee – a number of companies charge for storing your will, sometimes on an annual basis.
Make sure you use a professional will writing service, who may store your will for free for your lifetime.
How do I get my will written?
You can try and write your will yourself or can pay a professional will writer to write it for you.
The main benefit of paying for a professional will writing service is peace of mind.
By using this service, you can fully understand your options and know your will is going to be written in a way that is recognised by the law.
You need to be aware that will writing is an unregulated activity.
So, choosing a will writing service that’s regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will provide extra protection as they are required to act in your best interests.
James Antoniou is head of wills at Co-op Legal Services, which offers will writing services. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of loveMONEY.
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