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Leaving Money to Charity: Step by Step Guide

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 19 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Estate Inheritance Charity Donation

A large proportion of people choose to leave a portion of their estate to a charity, or a number of charities. This is a popular way of ensuring that the best possible use is made of the money you leave behind.

But leaving money to charity is not necessarily as easy as you might think. The process needs to be completed in a specific way in order to be successful – and you may need to take legal advice.

Choose your charity

You may already have a charity in mind. Many people, however, know that they want to leave some of their money to a good cause, but are unsure which charity to choose. In these cases, you may want to request some literature from a range of charities. They should be able to explain exactly how your money will be spent. If you are worried about your cash being eaten up in office expenses and other bureaucracy, you might consider ordering annual reports. These should give breakdowns of the charities’ annual expenditures.

Assess your estate

Before you begin the process of gifting, you need to assess what you will have to offer. It is remarkably common for people to bequeath more than they actually end up having in their estate, and this can cause obvious problems.

If you are in any doubt, or if your financial affairs are particularly complex, you should consider asking a professional to value your estate for you.

Choose a legacy type

There is a range of different legacy types, and each of these may be suitable in a different situation. In a residual legacy you leave a proportion of what is left of your estate after all other costs and liabilities have been met. In a specific legacy you leave a specific asset to the charity. In a pecuniary legacy you leave a set amount to the charity.

Pecuniary legacies are generally discouraged, as their value is reduced by inflation between the time at which you make your will and the time at which the charity receives the gift. Residual legacies are generally the most popular amongst charities, as their value rises in line with the value of your estate as a whole. You should speak to a solicitor when writing your will, who will be able to explain the correct wording for each type of legacy.

Detail the charity properly

A worryingly large proportion of people leaving money to charities in their will fail to give proper details of the relevant organisation. Many presume that it is enough to simply give the name of the charity, but this is often not the case.

Instead, you should give the name, registered address, and registered charity number of the organisation. You should also consider inserting a clause stating that the money should still be donated in the event that the charity changes its name or is merged into another organisation.

Take legal advice

Finally, it is important to remember that a will is a legal document, and must be drafted in a legally valid manner in order to be successful. You should therefore seriously consider taking legal advice to help you draw this document up.

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