Frequently asked questions about wills

How important is a will?

Very. If you pass away without leaving a will, there are certain rules that dictate how your money, property or possessions should be allocated (this is known as ‘intestacy’). This may result in your estate not being distributed in the way that you would have wished.

How much does a will cost?

The average cost of writing a simple single will is around £100, depending on where you live and the solicitor you use.

The charges for drawing up a will vary between solicitors and the complexity of the will. You may have access to legal advice as part of an insurance policy, which might cover the costs of a solicitor preparing or checking a will.

Can I write my own will?

Yes. It’s perfectly legal for you to do so. But we recommend using a solicitor to draw up or check a will you have written to make sure it accurately reflects your wishes and is legally valid. Without a legal background it can be easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the will, it can cause delays in your estate being settled. Using a solicitor will ensure that any possible misunderstandings and disputes are resolved.

A qualified solicitor can guide you through any unfamiliar legal language and any issues in probate law, Inheritance and Capital Gains Tax that may affect your estate.

If you don’t have a solicitor, The Law Society has lots of information on how to choose a solicitor.

When should I write a will?

We recommend organising your will as soon as possible. If you already have a will, you should review it regularly, particularly when your personal circumstances change; for example, when you get married or divorced, when you have new additions to the family, or when you move house.

What are the tax advantages of leaving money to charity?

If your estate is subject to Inheritance Tax (IHT), it is payable at a rate of 40 percent. However, by making some simple plans, the amount of Inheritance Tax payable when your will becomes active can be significantly reduced. For example, gifts left to UK-registered charities, such as Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Charity, are exempt from Inheritance Tax. The gift will be deducted from your estate before the tax is calculated, and so reduce the amount of IHT payable.

There’s another benefit for you when you leave a gift to charity in your will. When you leave a gift to one or more charities in your will that amount up to 10 percent or more of your chargeable net estate, the IHT rate on the whole of your estate will be reduced from 40 percent to 36 percent.

Please check the HM Revenue & Customs website for up-to-date information.

How can my gift be used to purchase a piece of equipment or fund a specific area of research?

We’ll always follow your wishes but, in the future, the medical landscape may have changed in terms of equipment and treatments. In order for the charity to be able to benefit from your gift, it would be helpful if such requests are stated as a preference rather than a condition in your will.

You can make specific arrangements and get further information by contacting us.

Do I need to tell you my intentions?

If you decide to make a gift in your will we’d be grateful if you could let us know. We’d like the opportunity to thank you and keep you up to date with what’s happening at the hospital. This is a very personal and often private decision and you’re under no obligation to let us know of your intentions. Telling us about the gift in your will is not binding in any way and you can change your mind at any point.

Glossary of terms

Some of the legal terms you may come across

Will A document conforming to legal requirements that sets out what you want to happen to your property and the rest of your estate on your death.

Beneficiary Any person who benefits under a will.

Codicil A formal amendment to a will.

Estate Everything you own at the time of your death.

Executor The person you appoint to carry out the instructions in your will. Executors are usually family, friends or professional advisors (solicitor/bank manager/accountant).

Inheritance Tax This tax is generally levied on an estate when somebody dies if it is valued over a certain amount. Contact us for more information about inheritance tax.

Intestacy This is when someone dies without leaving a legally valid will. In these circumstances, the rules of Intestacy apply and these determine who will administer and who will benefit from the deceased’s estate. Further information on the rules of Intestacy can found on the HMRC website.

Legacy/bequest Gift of personal or moveable property (including cash, shares, etc.) left in a will.

Legatee The person who receives a legacy.

Pecuniary legacy Making a gift of a fixed sum of money. You can link your legacy to the Retail Price Index to ensure that the value of the gift you make today is worth the same in the future. This will prevent your gift from decreasing in value over time.

Probate The application to court after someone dies to prove the will is valid. This results in authority being granted to the executors via a Grant of Probate after any tax due is paid.

Residuary estate Everything you own at the time of your death, minus any legacies you have made, your debts, funeral expenses and costs of winding up your estate.

Residuary legacy Leaving a share of your estate. This is stated as all or as a percentage (%) of your remaining estate once all fees, outstanding costs and other gifts have been taken care of. Even a small percentage of your estate, after providing for family and loved ones, can make a real difference.

Reversionary legacy This gift allows you to leave your estate, or part of it, on trust for the benefit of a particular person during their lifetime. They benefit from using the assets, or receiving the income from them, during their life. Upon their death, the assets pass to other chosen beneficiaries (called ‘reversionary beneficiaries’) such as Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Charity.

Specific legacy You can leave specific assets such as property, stocks and shares or other valuables if you wish.

Testator (male) / Testatrix (female) The person making a will.

Witness You must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses who must then sign the will after you.

A witness (or the married partner of a witness) cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid. However, the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Contact us for answers to any more questions you have about leaving a gift in your will.