Will Writing Advice & Leaving a Charitable Donation

Thinking about writing a Will can be daunting yet it is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Here is some advice on how to make a Will, including how you can include a charitable donation to St Leonard’s Hospice.

Your questions answered

What is a Will?

A Will is a legally binding document that sets out how your estate should be distributed after your death. Your estate is made up of everything you own, such as money, property and personal belongings. Your estate also includes your share of things that you may own with other people. Anything you owe such as a mortgage is deducted from the total value of your estate.

A Will is where you can detail who you want to give your belongings to, who should look after any children, and can include your wishes with regard to pets and your funeral.

If you die without a Will, you are ‘intestate’, and the law decides on who inherits your assets. This may not reflect your intentions.
Having an up to date, professionally written Will is the best way to ensure your wishes are followed.

How do I find a solicitor and write a Will? 

We would always recommend that you use a solicitor to ensure that your wishes are fully understood. A solicitor can give you professional advice including information about inheritance tax. They can also keep a copy of your Will if you wish.

You can find a solicitor by contacting the Law Society at lawsociety.org.uk or calling them on 0207 242 1222.

St Leonard’s Hospice also organises an annual ‘Make a Will Month’ in October. During the month we offer a will writing service where you can have your Will written by a local solicitor in exchange for a donation to St Leonard’s. Information about Make a Will Month 2020 will be available in August.

What things should I consider before I visit a solicitor?

Step One: If you are a parent you should decide who you want to be your children’s legal guardians if both parents die when the children are under 18.

Step Two: Make a list of your assets and estimate their value. Your assets include things such as property, shares, savings and other items of value you own. They also include any lump sum death benefits and insurances. The total of these assets is your estate.

Step Three: Make a list of what you owe. This could be an outstanding mortgage, loans or bills and any equity release.

Step Four: Decide who you would like to benefit from your estate and how. Make a list of the people and organisations (such as the charities you support) that you wish to remember in your Will. Think about how you would like to divide your estate between them.
If you do decide to include a charitable donation to St Leonard’s Hospice in your Will remember to include our full name (St Leonard’s Hospice), address (185 Tadcaster Road, York, YO24 1GL) and Registered Charity Number (509294)

Step Five: Choose your executors. Executors are the people who make sure your estate is administered as you have chosen. They can be solicitors, who will charge for the service. Alternatively, you may want to appoint trusted friends or family. People who will benefit from your Will can also be executors. This can involve a lot of work and responsibility, so it is important to consider this carefully.

Can I update an existing Will?

If you wish to update an existing Will you can choose to either make a completely new Will or add a ‘codicil’. A codicil is a supplement that sets out changes to your existing Will and is read alongside it. Writing an entirely new Will can be the safer option as a codicil can become misplaced from the Will it relates to.

What should I do once my Will is written and witnessed? 

It is important your Will is stored safely and crucially that you tell your executors where they will be able to find it after your death. If you have used the services of a solicitor they will usually store it for you free of charge and give you a copy. Alternatively you could store it with the Probate Service in England & Wales. There is a small fee to do this but withdrawing it is free.

How often should I update my Will? 

It’s a good idea to review your Will every five years, even if there has been no big changes in your life. You might have changed your mind about something. Or you may wish to check if there have been any changes to the law which might affect your Will. You will also need to revisit your Will if you; get married or enter into a civil partnership; get a divorce; have children or any other new relatives (like nieces, nephews or grandchildren) who you wish to include; buy a house or obtain any other valuable assets.

What happens on my death if I fail to make a Will?

If you don’t have a valid Will on your death, your personal wishes may not be implemented. The law will decide what happens to your estate. This may mean that your intended beneficiaries receive nothing. If you die intestate (ie without a Will) and without a living relative, your estate will go to the Crown.

An update on making your Will during the Covid-19 outbreak

Due to Government restrictions following the Covid-19 outbreak, the standard practice of face-to-face meetings between a solicitor and their client has changed to protect both clients and solicitors. Many firms have adapted to these restrictions to ensure that they are not a barrier for anyone updating their current Will or obtaining advice on making a new Will.

How solicitors may operate differently

New Will instructions may be taken either over the telephone or by email. Letters and draft copies of Wills may be sent via email or if necessary, by post.

Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of Wills have been classed as ‘Key Workers’. They have therefore adapted their usual practices in line with the Government guidance in order to protect the health of their clients whilst ensuring that it is, as far as possible, ‘business as usual’.

One of the main issues facing solicitors during the Covid-19 outbreak is Will signings. In order to be valid, the Will must be executed correctly. This means the person making the Will (testator) has to have their actual signing of their Will witnessed by two independent individuals.

Many solicitors are willing to continue visiting clients at home to sign their Wills. Precautionary measures will be taken such as wearing protective gloves and using one pen per person. Wills can be signed outdoors or even witnessed through a window for particularly vulnerable individuals. Solicitors are committed to ensuring that the social distancing restrictions are not an obstacle for those wishing to make a Will during these unsettling times.

The protection of health is paramount however putting your affairs in order continues to be extremely important and solicitors will work with you to ensure your Will is completely valid.


Leaving Money to a Charity in Your Will

Leaving a gift in your Will to St Leonard’s Hospice will support local families when they need it most. Your gift will help patients to live their lives as normally as possible - perhaps visiting favourite places, playing with a grandchild, sitting in the sunshine, enjoying being at home.

It will fund the physiotherapist who gives a patient the confidence to walk again. It will pay the nurse who brings hospice care into a patient’s own home and allows a wife or husband to stop being a ‘carer’ and return to being a loving partner. It will provide bereavement counselling to a son, a daughter, a brother, a friend.

Being pain free and comfortable means patients can focus on life and loved ones. The gifts supporters leave St Leonard’s in their Wills care for one in four patients. These people are not strangers but people we know, who live in our neighbourhoods.

Gifts in Wills are vital to fund our work. Help support more final days, weeks and months by considering a Gift in your Will to St Leonard’s Hospice today.

What type of gift can I leave?

Anything you can leave to St Leonard’s will have a huge impact. Even 1% of your estate can help ensure St Leonard’s is always here for the local people who need our special care.

There are five types of gift to consider:

A residuary gift: this is a share of your estate ie a percentage of what is left after any taxes or costs have been subtracted. As this gift is a percentage of your estate you don’t need to worry if your financial situation changes. It will keep its value over time.

A pecuniary gift: is a fixed sum of money eg £1,000 and is also known as a cash gift. It is a good idea to review pecuniary gifts regularly as their value can be lessened with inflation and turn out to be less generous than you intended.

A specific gift: these are items such as a property, stocks and shares or other valuables like jewellery or paintings.

A reversionary gift: allows you to provide for a loved one during their lifetime eg giving them the use of a house. After their death the asset is then passed to another, specified beneficiary.

A contingent gift: is a gift in your Will that depends on the occurrence of an event which may or may not happen.

If you do decide to include St Leonard’s Hospice in your Will remember to include our full name (St Leonard’s Hospice), address (185 Tadcaster Road, York, YO24 1GL) and Registered Charity Number (509294)

Are there any inheritance tax benefits of leaving a charitable donation in my Will? 

A gift in your Will to any charity is not subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT). By remembering St Leonard’s Hospice in your Will you may be able to reduce the taxable value of your assets and so lower the amount of inheritance tax due on your estate. Additionally, if you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity, you will be taxed at a lower rate (36% instead of 40%).

Your solicitor can advise you on current legislation and the best way to ensure your Will is tax efficient.

Do I need to let St Leonard’s Hospice know if I decide to include the charity in my Will?

You don’t need to tell us, but if you feel comfortable sharing your intentions we’d love the chance to thank you. If you’re interested, we can keep you up to date with how gifts such as yours are helping local people and also invite you to special events from time to time.

Can I only leave a gift to St Leonard’s if I have a large estate?

Gifts of any size make an impact on the lives of patients. No matter how large or small all donations are vitally important and truly appreciated.

How will my gift help?

St Leonard’s cares for people with serious life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease, heart failure, multiple sclerosis and chronic lung disease, treating any adult over the age of 18. Our approach to care is holistic, centred on the needs of the individual patient and making the most of the life left to be lived, right to the very end.

All gifts, whether they are large or small, fund patient care for people that need vital support and the people that love them, so they can make precious memories when time is short.

Can I speak to someone at St Leonard’s about leaving a gift in my Will?

If you would like this information in an alternative format, or if you have any questions or would like to talk anything over, please don’t hesitate to call the Fundraising Department on 01904 777 777 or email legacies@stleonardshospice.nhs.uk.

Alternatively you can download our leaflet on 'Preparing to make a Will' here.