The 10 – 16 May is Dying Matters Week where the focus is on opening up conversations about death, dying and bereavement. The theme for Monday is financially planning for the end of life. In this blog post, our Head of Legacy and Charity Giving, Julian Thomas, discusses the importance of Wills and shares some of the insights he has gained from working in his role at the Rowans Hospice Charity.
Writing your Will
Having a Will and keeping it up-to-date is so important. It is only by writing down your wishes for what should happen after your death, in a legally-enforceable document (the Will), that you can make sure they are carried out. There may be things which are unique to us that we wish to celebrate after our death, such as where we would like our ashes buried or our preference on funeral flowers, which you can put in your Will.
A key decision when writing your Will is who to appoint as executors (no more than four). Executors are the individuals who will be responsible for distributing your estate according to your wishes. Your executors can be friends or family members, or a professional. Although a professional will incur a cost on your estate, it could spare your loved ones additional stress when they are already grieving.
How your ‘estate’ is distributed – who gets what!
Your Will can determine how your ‘estate’ is distributed. This is everything you own at the time of your death, whether it is property, money (cash, shares or other assets) or valuable items such as jewellery. You can even state your wishes for a pet! In one Will, I read the writer asked a friend to look after their dog – and provided a ‘dowry’ of £50,000.
If you die without leaving a valid Will, your estate must be shared out according to certain rules called ‘Intestacy Rules’. Whilst these should not leave your married partner or children deprived, you may be surprised to learn only married, civil partnerships or some close relatives can inherit under the Intestacy Rule. If you imagined your estate would pass to someone not in these categories, for example, your unmarried partner, unfortunately this is not the case. If you have no blood relatives and no valid Will, your whole estate would go to the Government.
Consideration: There are many ways of having a Will written and I cannot tell you which one to choose, as all circumstances are different. However, by taking proper advice now, even if it comes at a cost, you could save a great deal of heartache and expense to your loved ones further down the line.
Keep your Will up to date!
Major life events, such as getting married or divorced, the arrival of children or grandchildren, or a change in circumstances all need to be incorporated into your Will. If your Will is not up to date, it could be considered invalid and the Rules of Intestacy will decide how your estate is shared out.
Making a Gift to a cause close to your heart
You can choose to make a gift to a cause, or causes dear to you. This does not mean you have to exclude your loved ones, and, very often, I see multiple beneficiaries in a Will.
Gifts in Wills may be in the form of cash gifts for a set amount or a share of the estate after all costs and cash gifts have been made (anything from 1% to 100%). They are a major source of support for charities. For Rowans Hospice Charity, these have come to represent between a quarter and one-third of our income, which support both the Hospice’s day-to-day operation and the expansion of our facilities and services to meet new demands for care.
It is humbling our supporters often feel able to leave more to the Hospice in their Will, than they gave during their lifetime. A gift in a Will can only be an expression of your wishes to support your chosen cause in general, it cannot be a response to a specific appeal or project. For example, if you wished to leave a gift to Rowans Hospice Charity, it could not be in response to our Capital Appeal, it would need to be in general support of local Hospice care for people affected by life-limiting illness and their families.
Any gifts, of any size will always be valued, warmly welcomed and they will always help to make a difference.
You can download our legacies booklet for our guide on making a Will and leaving a gift to Rowans Hospice Charity.
If you would like a hard copy posted, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.