Everything you need to know about Will making and legacy giving, including a glossary of legal and financial 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.
This information is only for guidance: you should always consult professional advisers before making a decision regarding your Will.
Frequently asked questions
What kind of gifts can I leave in my Will?
Here are some of the 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 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).
Can I choose which Sue Ryder centre or 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.
You can also obtain codicil forms by contacting our Legacy team on 0808 164 4572 or emailing email@example.com.
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 download below or obtained by contacting our Legacy team on 0808 164 4572 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can take this along to your current solicitor or use the Free Wills Service if you prefer.
How do I access your Free Wills Service?
Face-to-face with a solicitor:
- Step 1. You complete the online form, call us on 0808 164 4572 or email email@example.com 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.
Online with Bequeathed:
Through our partnership with Bequeathed, you can write your Will online in the comfort of your own home.
We pay an annual fee to Bequeathed, so that you can write your Will for free. If you want legal advice at any stage, they can refer you to a solicitor who will give you a price to help you complete your Will.
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 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.
Can I write my own Will?
Yes, however 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.
What is inheritance tax?
Gifts in Wills are tax efficient.
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.
How do I choose my executors?
You can appoint a maximum of four executors and it is recommended that you should appoint at least two. Their role is to ensure that your wishes are carried out. An executor must be over 18 years old.
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.
Glossary of legal terms
Unconditionally and completely
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
A person or organisation that benefits from your Will
To make a legacy in your Will to a person or organisation
A legally binding document made by you that alters or adds to your existing Will
If you have no next of kin and die without making a Will, your estate will go to the Crown (i.e. the Treasury)
All of your possessions at the time of your death
Executor or Executrix
A man (or woman) you appoint to carry out your wishes as stated in your Will, and to administer your estate after your death
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
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
After all your specific bequests, your debts and taxes have been deducted, this is the balance of your estate
Testator or Testatrix
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