Friday, 7 September 2012

Will You Will .....?

Yesterday I went to a panel discussion at a local law firm on 'Engaging Legacy Donors'. It got me thinking that gifts in wills are the cornerstone of charities in the UK. Many charities depend on legacies and without them they would not exist. In fact, while 74% of the UK population support charities, only 7% currently leave a legacy to them when writing a Will*.

A representative from Macmillan Cancer Support spoke about their Legacy Programme and he explanined how they've moved from 'asking' for legacies to 'telling' how legacies change lives - I hope to adopt this storytelling approach in my work.

Types of Legacies
  • Pecuniary Legacy A fixed case payment - eg. "I leave 10,000 to Charity X"
  • Specific Legacy A particular asset - eg. "I leave my premium bonds to Charity X." All income from the date of death is paid to the beneficary - in this example any premium bond prizes would also be payable to Charity X. 
  • Discretionary Legacy The executors have the discretion to decide who will receive a legacy although they may be influenced by the wishes of the testator prior to death. eg. "I leave 10,000 to be shared between animal charities at my executor's discretion".
  • Residuary Legacy This legacy is a share of the residue of the estate after payment of all debts expenses and other legacies. This is where most problems can occur for recipient charities. This type of legacy can prove to be problematic. You should ask the solicitor for a copy of the Will and Confirmation to the deceased person's estate. This will show your entitlement from the estate and the Confirmation gives details of the value of the gross estate. Remember there will be debts which will reduce the value and these may be significant (eg. mortgage over property). It may be up to six months after the date of death before the Confirmation is granted.

Have you been left a legacy?
This may sound obvious but how do you find our if your charity has been left a legacy? Some solicitors can be slow in notifying charities that a legacy has been left to them and the first you hear of the legacy is when the estate has been wound up and the solicitor sends a cheque to the charity.

It's good practice to try to encourage your supporters to indicate if they have left a legacy to your charity in their Will. This will enable you to plan for your charity's future.

Macmillan Cancer Support say that 'Gifts in wills help fund more than a third of our services - we simply couldn't do what we do without them. A gift in your will can make a vital difference to someone living with cancer in the future'. 

I'm going to devise my 'tell', Will You?

Niamh, @niamhini

Next week I'll give you top tips on the administration of legacies, the challenges and how to keep legal costs down!

*Stats from Remeber A Charity


  1. That's a pretty nifty bit of trivia to know. That got me wondering how many of the wills made back home actually leave some property to charities in new york city.

  2. i think you have a great site here... today was my first time coming here.. i just happened to find it doing a google search. anyway, great post.

  3. i think charities paricularly mencap and the rspca are just a bunch of frauds all they are concerned about is fattening their own bank balances they are an insult to the great british public and be thouroughly investigated by the national press and the government how long will they be allowed to con the good hearted british public?