Love will find a way

Giving a legacy to your chosen charity is one of the best ways to show how much you care, says Jo Knowsley

We celebrated the season of goodwill, enjoyed giving and receiving gifts and toasted what we all hope will be a happy new year. Now it’s February, and on one day at least - St Valentine’s Day - many people’s thoughts turn to love.

Traditionally it’s a day to give cards or flowers to a loved one. But it is also an ideal opportunity to consider donating to a worthy cause by leaving a legacy to charity in your will.

The charity sector relies heavily on donations in wills to help disadvantaged people, rescue animals and to further medical research. Indeed, roughly 10% of their funding is in this form. You may want to leave a gift to a charitable cause that is close to your’s or your loved one’s hearts, or that has given you enjoyment during your life.

Put simply, a legacy is a gift left in your will to a beneficiary. Charitable legacies are exempt from inheritance tax, and estates that leave more than 10% to charity qualify for their inheritance tax percentage to drop from 40% (on estates worth over £325,000) to 36%. It is estimated that about 62% of people in the UK gave to charity in the past year, but only one in six chose to leave a legacy in their will.

So why do it? The chances are that without them many charities would not be able to continue with their work or research. Whether you want to help animals, children, the military or your local church you have the power to change lives.

Leaving a legacy is simple – you simply have to state the amount you want to give, or the percentage of your estate, and include the charity’s full address and registration number. If you would like the money to go to a specific area of research or a particular project, leave instructions to that effect.

If you have already have a will but decide you want to include a legacy, you can change or amend it using what is called a codicil or write an entirely new one. Codicils are best for small changes, so if you are doing anything substantial a new will may be the best way forward.

By leaving a gift in your will to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (, for example, you will help to fund pioneering research, advanced medical equipment, child and family support services, and the rebuilding and refurbishment of wards and other facilities. Your support will help seriously ill children now and in the future.

Great Ormond Street Hospital has depended on charitable support since it opened in 1852. It received its first generous legacy in 1855, and in 1929 the writer J.M. Barrie transferred the copyright of Peter Pan to the hospital, which has generated millions in royalties ever since.

Or you might consider a lesser-known charity such as the Macular Society (, which helps thousands of people suffering from macular disease learn to adapt to their failing sight. Macular disease can affect people of all ages, though it typically occurs in those in their 50s and older. The earliest symptom is usually a blurring or distorting of a part of your vision.

About 1.5 million people in the UK are currently living with macular disease, which covers a range of conditions. The society offers support and funds research into their causes as well as new ways to treat them.

Any donation to a charity in the form of a legacy will have a lasting effect and might contribute to groundbreaking scientific research. It truly is a gift of love.