Writing your will and leaving a gift
Ways to leave a gift in your will
When writing or updating your will, we would recommend using a solicitor or an experienced will writer. It doesn't have to be expensive, and you can look around for different quotes to get a good deal. You can also have your will written by one of Macmillan's will writing partners using our Free Will Service.
Leaving a gift is simple
The most important bits of information to include are our name, address and registered charity number:
Macmillan Cancer Support
89 Albert Embankment
Registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604).
Types of gifts in a will
If you choose to leave a gift in your will, there are different types for you to choose from.
A residuary gift is a share of your estate – a percentage of what is left after any taxes or costs have been subtracted.
Residuary gifts account for 85% of the income we receive from gifts in wills. Whilst occasionally someone leaves us their whole estate, many people choose to leave a small percentage and on average we receive around a quarter of their estate. Whatever you are able to give to Macmillan will make an incredible difference to people affected by cancer.
A pecuniary gift is a fixed amount of money.
These are particular items, such as a house, stocks and shares or jewellery. Anything that's of financial value to you. Usually Macmillan will sell items like this in order to raise much needed funds.
If you think you would like to create a trust in your will we recommend speaking to your solicitor. The most common trusts we see, are where a supporter gives a friend or relative the opportunity to live in their house for the remainder of their life, with Macmillan receiving the house once the friend or relative has died. There are however many other uses for trusts.
We have recently created the Macmillan Endowment Fund for supporters to donate to. Any money given to the endowment fund will be invested with any income earned being spent on supporting people affected by cancer.
Writing your will
When writing a will there are a few formalities that you must consider.
Choosing a solicitor
Using a solicitor is particularly important if your will is not straightforward. This might be the case if:
- you own a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner
- you have young children
- you have children with a former partner
- you want to leave money to someone who cannot care for themselves
- you own a property overseas
- you own a business.
If you are a parent, you should decide who you want to be your children's legal guardians if both parents die when the children are under 18 (or under 16 in Scotland).
Appointing an executor
In order to carry out the instructions of your will, you'll need to choose someone that you trust to be your executor.
What do executors do?
Executors have a legal responsibility to make sure your wishes are carried out. They can be a solicitor who charges a fee, or a friend or family member. Although a friend or family member can't charge for being your executor, they may wish to pay a solicitor to help them.
You can choose Macmillan to be your executor. We ask solicitors to help us, and we always make sure a fair price is paid, and that your wishes are followed.
Reasons to consider updating your will
Once your will is written it's a good idea to review it every five years or so and after any major life changes, such as:
- marriage or divorce
- birth of a child or grandchild
- moving house
- your executor is no longer suitable
- the value of your estate has changed.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should you write a will?
You can write your will from the age of 18 onward. It is beneficial to complete a will even if you feel there is no urgency for it. It means that you can relax knowing your wishes will be carried out.
Do I need a solicitor to write a will?
You don’t need to use a solicitor, you can actually write your own will. However, we always advise people to use a professional will writing service because mistakes in your will can cause a lot of stress and expense for your family and beneficiaries.
For many people a simple will produced by a good will writing service is more than sufficient for their needs. But for others advice from a solicitor is beneficial especially where they have assets in excess of their Inheritance Tax threshold (see 'Gifts in wills and tax' answer below), they have a large or complex family, or they wish to create some form of trust arrangements.
How do I choose a will writer or solicitor?
There are many services that can help you write a will, including Macmillan.
- Macmillan's Free Will Service - we have partnered with trusted will writing providers to offer our free will service. You get to choose the will writing partner and channel which suits you. Please note, if you use this service there is no obligation to leave a gift in your will to Macmillan although we really hope you’ll consider it.
- Trade unions - if you are a member of a trade union, they sometimes have a will writing service.
- Will writers - you should be careful with this route as will writing services are not regulated. Citizens Advice advise using one that belongs to the Institute of Professional Willwriters. The key thing here is to do your research and get quotes from each will writing service.
It can be difficult to choose from the hundreds of solicitors available. You can use our Free Will Service to help you find a legal professional to write your will either online, via post, on the telephone, or face to face in-branch or at home.
Or, if you’d rather not use our service, we recommend contacting the Law Society to find a list of solicitors near you.
In England and Wales, go to lawsociety.org.uk, or call 020 7242 1222.
In Scotland, contact the Law Society of Scotland at lawscot.org.uk, or call 013 1226 7411.
In Northern Ireland, contact the Law Society of Northern Ireland at lawsoc-ni.org, or call 028 9023 1614.
How much does it cost to write a will?
The cost of writing a will depends on which service you use and how complicated it is going to be. It's important to do your research and choose the service which most suits you. Going via a solicitor will increase the price so you should always get quotes from different services before work begins on your will.
There are also free wills services out there offered by many charities, including Macmillan. Note, that these free will writing services often only cover the cost of standard wills (single wills or simple joint wills). For more complicated wills, we recommend you talking to one of our solicitor partners (Irwin Mitchell, Jones Whyte or Hugh James). We have more information on this here.
For more information on free wills, Which? has a helpful guide.
Can I write my own will?
Yes, you can. Please note, Citizens Advice recommend that you only write a will yourself if the will is going to be straightforward. A straightforward will would be one where your wishes are very simple i.e. you would like to leave everything to your partner.
If you need help with the structure, you can buy a writing a will template from stationery shops such as WHSmith. Or you can download one online.
Content of wills and wills admin
Can I have the same will as my partner?
Yes. There are two types of wills you can have:
- Mutual or simple joint wills - these are two separate wills which set out the same wishes within both. They are for two spouses or partners. They are similar to mirror wills, except this type of will cannot be altered after one partner passes away. The Macmillan Free Will Service can cover the cost of simple joint wills.
- Mirror will - these are two separate wills which set out the same wishes within both. They are for two spouses or partners. They are similar to mirror wills, except this type of will cannot be altered after one partner passes away. The Macmillan Free Will Service can cover the cost of simple joint wills.
What should you not write in a will?
How do I ensure my will is valid?
For a will to be valid, there are certain conditions that must be met:
- the will must be made by a person who is 18 years old or over
- your will must be made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person
- your will must be on paper, a ‘soft’ copy on a computer is not valid
- your will must be signed by you, in the presence of and two witnesses and signed by the two witnesses, in your presence
- witnesses can be anyone over 18 but cannot be a beneficiary of your will, nor the spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary of your will. Where a beneficiary witnesses the will any gifts to them fail.
- witnesses do not need to read your will or be aware of its contents.
More information on ensuring that your will is valid can be found on the Citizens Advice website.
Where should I keep my will?
This is entirely up to you. The document should be kept in a safe place and you should make your executors aware of where it is kept. You should always have a copy of your will even if a solicitor stores it for you.
How can I change my existing will?
If you need to make any changes to your will, these will need to be made in writing and signed and witnessed by two people (one in Scotland) in the same way as the original will.
This can be done by creating a new document, known as a codicil, which adds to or amends the original will. This needs to be stored with and read in conjunction with the will. However, codicils are increasingly uncommon as it is now so much simpler to produce a new will with the amendments incorporated which replaces the earlier will.
We always recommend taking professional advice in relation to wills and codicils to minimise the chance of problems interpreting or implementing your wishes.
Gifts in wills and tax
Inheritance Tax is complex, and if you think that your estate may be subject to it, we strongly recommend taking advice from a solicitor or financial advisor who may be able to structure you’re estate in a more tax efficient way. We hope the following will help you identify if Inheritance Tax might be payable on your UK estate.
The simplest way to avoid Inheritance Tax is to leave everything to your spouse, civil partner or charity as these gifts are always free of inheritance tax.
Where you are leaving gifts to people other than your spouse, civil partner or charity you have a nil rate band, currently £325,000, available which you can give without your estate being liable for Inheritance Tax. Some people may also have an additional sum, the transferable nil rate band, which is available where your spouse or civil partner, has died and not used all of their nil rate band. If that is the case you are able to use anything that remained of their nil rate band. This could mean you can give £650,000 to friends and family without inheritance tax being due.
Anything you give away to friends and family, over and above your nil rate band and transferable nil rate band, is known as your taxable estate. This will incur tax at 40% unless you give 10% of your taxable estate to charity, in which case the rate of tax is reduced to 36%.
Can I make Macmillan Cancer Support the executor of my will?
We would be delighted to act as your executor or trustee where you are leaving us a share of your residuary estate. We might also consider acting as your executor where you leave us a specific gift but it would probably be preferable that one of your residuary beneficiaries acts as executor.
Where we are executor, we will do our utmost to ensure that your final wishes are fulfilled. We know that you will want your estate administered as quickly and as cost efficiently as possible whilst still ensuring that your beneficiaries receive as much as possible.
We will often instruct solicitors to help us with the administration of the estate and the cost of this will come from residue. As we are the executor of many estates, we are know what to expect from solicitors enabling us to get excellent service at excellent value.
What is the impact of gifts in wills to Macmillan?
Can I specify how my gift is used?
Absolutely. While it is important that Macmillan can invest in areas of greatest need while innovating and responding to the changing needs of people living with cancer, we understand you may want to fund a specific Macmillan service. If you want to specify how Macmillan should use your gift, please express this clearly alongside the gift in your will.
Where your gift is for a specific purpose, we are bound to use the funds exactly as specified. This can sometimes present a challenge where a hospital or hospice has closed or moved, or if we are not funding a service at the specified location at the time of receiving the gift. In situations like these we would have to apply to the Charity Commission to be able to use the funds as closely as possible to the original purpose and in the spirit of the gift.
To avoid these complications, we recommend you express your wishes in the form of a non-binding wish by saying “it is my wish but without creating any legally binding obligation that…”. Or specify a large geographical area rather than an address or building.
Macmillan will aim to comply with your wishes but in the event of being unable to do so, we can use the gift as closely as possible to your wishes meaning your gift can be put to more immediate use to helping people living with cancer.