Your questions answered

FAQs and legal terms

The language and rules of wills can be confusing if you're not familiar with them, so we've answered some of the most commonly asked questions and also explained some of the terms you’ll hear.

The information below is not an exhaustive statement of the law. It's of general application, and may not fit your particular circumstances. You should always consult your professional advisers before making a decision regarding your will.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of gift can I leave in my will?

There are four main types to choose from:

  • A share of what’s left after all other gifts and expenses have been paid (called a ‘residuary’ bequest).
    • You choose the share, for example 99% to friends and family; 1% to your chosen hospice.
    • These gift are particularly useful as they are unaffected by inflation.
  • A specific sum of money (called a ‘pecuniary’ bequest). It doesn’t have to be a large amount; it all adds up.

  • An item of value, such as jewellery or stocks and shares, that can be sold to fund our work (called a ‘specific’ bequest).

  • A ‘gift in trust’, for someone to use over a period of time before being passed on to charity.

Can I choose which Sue Ryder hospice my gift goes to?

Yes, you can. Along with the standard wording, which depends on the type of gift you are making, you will simply need to add: ‘I express the wish for the money to be used for the benefit of [insert name of hospice/care centre].’

Alternatively, you can make your gift to Sue Ryder as a whole and we’ll use it where the need is greatest.

Should I make a new will now if I've decided to leave an extra gift to Sue Ryder?

If your planned changes are small, such as making a straightforward bequest, it may not be necessary to change the whole document. It is wise to consult your solicitor, but you may be able to record any changes by adding a codicil.

Please note that any codicil must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a full will to make it legal.

If you would like to receive a codicil form, please email or call 0808 164 4572, stating which country you live in.

I already have a will; can I use the free wills service to change it?

If you simply want to include a gift to Sue Ryder or your local hospice, you don’t need to change your whole will; you can simply add to it using a form called a codicil, which can be obtained by contacting our Legacy team via the contact details above.

You can take this along to your current solicitor or use the free wills service if you prefer.

So how exactly do I access your free wills service?

  • Step 1. You complete the online form, call us on 0808 164 4572 or email to let us know you are interested in this service.
  • Step 2. You will receive a letter detailing the six participating solicitors closest to you.
  • Step 3. You can make an appointment with one of those firms to draw up or amend your will at a time that suits you.
  • Step 4. Sue Ryder pays for your will to be written at a special rate agreed with the solicitor.

Enquire about our free wills service

Why is it important to make a will?

A legal will ensures that your estate will be distributed in the way you want. It allows you to record gifts to particular members of your family, friends or organisations like charities, ensuring that your estate doesn't go to the Treasury.

It may also help to ensure that the tax burden on your estate is minimised.

When should you make a will?

Everyone over the age of 18 should make a Will. The benefit of a legal will is that you will have the comfort of knowing that your personal wishes will be carried out in the event of your death. You can learn more below:

Do you need to make a will? Find out

Can I write my own will?

Yes, you can. The danger is that you may overlook something that will either create confusion or affect the impact of inheritance tax. For example, you could express a wish that is not legally enforceable. Your professional advisers will help to ensure that your Will addresses all of the relevant issues.  

Learn more about writing a will and choosing a solicitor

What is the effect of inheritance tax?

If the total value of your estate is over £325,000 (the current inheritance tax threshold, also known as the “nil rate band”), your beneficiaries will have to pay 40% inheritance tax on the amount over £325,000, although there is an exemption for gifts left to a surviving spouse or civil partner. This means that if your estate is worth over £325,000, your beneficiaries will only keep £6,000 out of every extra £10,000 over and above £325,000 that you leave. However, legacies to registered charities are tax-exempt and are deducted from your estate before any tax liability is calculated.

The nil rate band is expected to remain frozen at £325,000 until at least April 2021.

From 6 April 2012, anyone leaving 10% or more of their estate to a charity will have any part of their estate which remains subject to Inheritance Tax after deduction of the charitable gift taxed at 36%, rather than 40%.

With effect from 6 April 2017, where a person dies leaving their main place of residence (or equivalent assets where they have downsized to a smaller property) to a direct descendant (i.e. child or grandchild etc) their estate will receive an additional nil rate band of £100,000. The level of this additional nil rate band is currently intended to rise in annual instalments to £175,000 by 2021. However, it only applies to legacies of residential property to direct descendants and not to other relatives (such as siblings, nephews/nieces etc).

I’m married – is my tax allowance different?

Married couples and civil partners can combine their tax allowances. This doesn’t raise the inheritance tax threshold to £650,000, but it allows the surviving spouse or civil partner to benefit from any unused portion of their spouse or partner's allowance.

Once introduced, any unused part of the additional nil rate band for gifts of residential property will also be transferrable to a surviving spouse in the same way.

The above information is basic general guidance only and should not be treated as professional advice. Inheritance tax is a complex topic and each individual's tax situation is different, so we always recommend consulting with your solicitor when making any changes to your will.

Stay up to date with changes to inheritance tax via HMRC

How do I choose my executors?

We suggest that you should identify someone who you feel is reliable – most people choose members of their family as executors of their will.

Whomever you choose, you should ask them if they are prepared to serve as your executor before appointing them formally. It is also possible to appoint your bank manager, solicitor or accountant as executor, as this will avoid problems if your other executors die before you. However, professional executors are likely to charge a fee for their services.

If I marry, will it affect my current will?

Yes. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, marriage (or remarriage) will normally invalidate your current Will. It is therefore very important that you make a new will as soon as you marry.

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 and without a living relative, your estate will go to the Crown.

Types of legacy

Specific bequest A specific item, such as a house, car or article of jewellery
Reversionary legacy A legacy made to a particular person for the period of their lifetime, after which it passes to another specified person (or organisation)
Conditional Legacy A legacy made to a person or an organisation providing a particular condition is met (for example, when the beneficiary reaches a specific age)
Gift on Trust A legacy where your executors appoint trustees who are responsible for looking after the gift for the named beneficiary (for example, a trust for a person until they get married or reach a certain age)

Glossary of legal terms

Term Definition
Absolute  Unconditionally and completely 
Administrator A person who administers your estate after your death if you have failed to make a legally valid will, or if you have made a will but did not appoint executors
Beneficiary A person or organisation that benefits from your will
Bequeath To make a legacy in your will to a person or organisation
Codicil A legally binding document made by you that alters or adds to your existing will
The Crown

If you have no next of kin and die without making a will, your estate will go to the Crown (i.e. the Treasury)

Estate All of your possessions at the time of your death
Executor or
A man (or woman) you appoint to carry out your wishes as stated in your will, and to administer your estate after your death
Intestate A word describing those who die without leaving a valid will

A gift you leave in your will to a person or organisation

Next of Kin Your closest living relative at the time of your death
Probate After your death, this is the legal process whereby your will is legally validated in order that your estate can be distributed according to your wishes
Residue After all your specific bequests, your debts and taxes have been deducted, this is the balance of your estate
Testator or
A man or woman who makes a legally valid will


A person appointed with legal obligations to administer and manage assets for the benefit of another person or organisation