Practicalities - Making a Will
Information for those considering leaving a legacy gift to Garden Organic.
Making a will
Who needs to make a will?
- Everyone over the age of 18 who has possessions
- Everyone whose marital status changes needs to make or revise their will
- Everyone who has dependents
- Everyone whose assets exceed the Inheritance Tax threshold (currently £325,000)
Why make a will?
By making a will you retain control over what happens to your assets after you die. Without a will, they will be divided up according to a legal formula, or if you have no dependents, it may go straight to the Inland Revenue. In other words, your choices are ignored. Even if you are married, without a will everything might not go to your spouse.
Making a will need not be expensive or difficult, and it brings peace of mind, giving you control over your affairs and removes uncertainty for those left behind.
A will is a legal document. To ensure your wishes will be carried out exactly how you want, it is recommended that you seek advice from a solicitor or other professional advisor. Ask friends for a recommendation or look in Yellow Pages or on the internet.
What to ask a solicitor
Ask them if they specialise in ‘Wills and Probate’. Ask them for their charges. All solicitors should be able to give you a rough idea of costs before you begin. If necessary, ask if they will come to your home to take your instructions.
Before you meet a solicitor
There are a number of things to think about before you see your solicitor. By considering them in advance you could save time and money.
- What assets do you own?
- Whom would you like to benefit from your estate?
- Do you have any special instructions – perhaps about funeral arrangements?
- Who do you want to appoint as your executor to ensure your will is carried out after your death?
Assets are all your possessions, financial investments, insurance policies, property, everything you own. The solicitor needs to know this for several reasons:
- If your estate (the total value of your assets at the time of your death) is likely to be more than the Inheritance Tax threshold, your solicitor will advise you of various ways to reduce this tax burden.
- Different types of assets will need to be handled in different ways.
- When a person dies, the Will has to go to Probate. To obtain Probate, the Executor (person you decide will process the will) has to trace all your assets before Probate can be granted. If a record of your assets exists from the time the Will was made, this makes the executor’s role a bit easier.
- In looking at your assets, you may decide that you want to give some parts of your estate in the same form that they are currently, e.g. if you have shares, you may want to pass them on as shares, rather than selling the shares and just passing on the value.
- If the will does not encompass all your assets, this may mean that your affairs are declared partially intestate, and in this case an administrator may be appointed to determine how the remainder of the estate is divided.
The choice of beneficiaries and how you divide your estate is completely up to you. You can leave money, specific items like jewellery, property, etc, to anyone you wish. However, if you have a partner sharing a house at the time of writing your will, you may wish to ensure that any monetary gifts to others will not require the sale of the property being lived in by the surviving partner. Your solicitor will advise you on how to avoid this.
Beneficiaries may be of any age. You will need to give full name and address details of all beneficiaries. As well as considering family, relatives and friends, many people take the opportunity to leave a gift to a cause they have supported or been involved with.
The Executor(s) is/are the people you nominate to carry out all the instructions in your will. You may choose up to four people, though one person, plus a professional advisor is more common. They will be responsible for obtaining probate, which they do by identifying the assets of the deceased person and paying outstanding debts. They then fulfil the bequests according to the will.
In particular, it is the duty of an executor to maximise the value of the estate, e.g. getting the best price for property, shares, etc. This is very important as it can make a significant difference to the amount beneficiaries receive.
An executor may be a beneficiary of your will.
To become a legal document, a will must be signed and witnessed by two people. The witnesses must not be beneficiaries of the will. If you prepare your will through a solicitor or other professional, they will provide the witnesses.
By writing a will you can also specify the type of funeral you want, even down to the hymns, the location, choice of burial or cremation and scattering of ashes. You can also specify if you would like donations to a favourite charity instead of flowers.
Inheritance Tax is payable by your estate on everything above the current threshold (£325,000 for the 2014/15 tax year), except for that which goes directly to your spouse.
It can be complicated and if you have made a will through a solicitor they will help you review your liability for tax and how you can reduce it. One way to reduce tax liability is to make a gift to a charity as this is taken from your estate before the tax assessment is made.
Updating your will
It is important to update your will regularly to ensure that it reflects your current wishes and circumstances. You might find it helpful to review it briefly every few years. If you are still happy with your decisions, then you need do nothing more.
In certain circumstances you must update your will, for example if your marital situation changes or if you move house.
If you have drawn up your will with a solicitor’s guidance, it may not be necessary to change your will if a beneficiary dies before you. You will need to check this with your solicitor.
It is suggested that you review your will at least every five years, though you may not need to change it.
If you wish to add one simple change to your will, your solicitor will probably suggest adding a codicil as the cheapest and most efficient way to make small alterations.
If you wish to add a codicil in favour of Garden Organic, the following wording is suggested:
This is the first (or other number) Codicil to my Will dated (date). In addition to the other bequests in my Will, I (name) of (address) hereby give (% share of the residue) or (the sum of £) or (name of property) to the Henry Doubleday Research Association of Garden Organic Ryton, Coventry CV8 3LG, registered charity number 298104, for the general purposes of that charity and the receipt of the Chief Executive shall be a full and sufficient discharge to my executors. In all other respects I confirm my said will.
This will need to be signed and witnessed like your original will, though the witnesses do not need to be the same people. A Codicil must not be physically attached to the original will, i.e. no paperclips or staples, but may be kept in the same envelope.
Frequently asked questions about legacies
How can I leave money to a friend/charity?
First you need to make a will. The best way to do this is by using a solicitor who can ensure what’s on paper exactly matches your wishes in a legally approved way. Then you decide whom you wish to be beneficiaries: family, friends, charities, etc. Then you decide what kind of gift to leave. The main ones are:
- Residuary –a share of your estate when all debts have been paid and all other gifts made
- Pecuniary – for a specific amount of money
- Specific – a named item: jewellery, a work of art or a cherished memento
I have a special request – is it possible at Garden Organic Ryton?
As a living, organic site we are often asked about special requests, such as dedicating a bench or tree. Please contact us, as each request is different. We will do our best to meet your aims.
What happens if one of my beneficiaries dies before me?
Your solicitor can draft the will in such a way that if one of your beneficiaries dies, either the gift reverts to the main estate (reversionary will) or that another person is nominated (conditional). Your solicitor can advise you on either option.
What’s Inheritance Tax and how can it be reduced?
Inheritance Tax (what used to be known as death duties) is levied on estates worth more than £325,000 (in Financial Year 2014/15). The tax is 40% of the remainder of the estate. For people who own a house, there is a high likelihood that their total estate will be over the Inheritance Tax threshold. Your solicitor can advise you on ways to reduce this amount but one example is through a charitable gift. Legacy gifts to charities are not taxed. Also, they are taken out of your account before it is assessed for tax, so reducing your tax liability.
Can I leave a legacy to fund a specific Garden Organic project?
Garden Organic undertakes a range of projects, however many are time limited and could be finished by the time the will comes into force. For this reason we ask for your gift to be to our ‘general purposes’ and then it will be put to the next important project. If you want to define a specific area of work such as our research, our Gardens, our education work or the Heritage Seed Library, to benefit from your gift, then you can specify one of these areas.
Why do I need a solicitor? How can I find one?
A will is a legal document. Having gone to the trouble to think about what you want to leave to whom, you want to make sure that it will occur exactly as you wished. The only certain way to do this is to use a professional advisor to draw up your will. This usually means using a solicitor but you could also ask your bank manager or other financial adviser. If you do not have a solicitor you can ask friends and acquaintances if they have recommendations, or you can look in the Yellow Pages or online. When contacting a solicitor ask if they specialise in ‘wills and probate’ and ask for their charges. Some may offer an initial meeting for free. Some may come to your house if mobility is an issue. Some may work outside normal office hours.
Is making a will expensive?
A fairly straightforward will need not be particularly expensive. Think rather of it as an investment in the future – and a sense of peace of mind for you that all your affairs are in order. Not making a will may be much more costly to your family in the long run.
We’d like to leave our smallholding in trust to Garden Organic, for you to manage. Is this possible?
Garden Organic gets a variety of requests like this and we quite understand them. We will always do our best to meet your wishes, though there are many complications involved. Each case is different so if you do want to do this, please contact us and we will happily meet with you to discuss your particular wishes.
For more information, or to discuss how a legacy gift could be used, please contact:
Anne Durant, Fundraising Co-ordinator
Telephone: 024 7621 7701