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. Because this gift is a percentage of your estate you don't need to worry if your financial situation changes.
In 2019 residuary gifts made up 90% of the income we received from gifts in wills so choosing to leave Macmillan even a small percentage can help to make a big difference to those living with 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.
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
How do I choose a solicitor?
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.
Can I make Macmillan Cancer Support the executor of my will if I am leaving my estate to the charity?
We are delighted that you are thinking about leaving us a legacy. As a Trust Corporation we are able to act as an executor or trustee and we would be honoured to act as executor of your estate.
It is important to note that we would instruct external solicitors to carry out the administration on our behalf so there may not be a cost saving to appointing us. However, we would ensure that the fees charged are reasonable, the administration is carried out to a high standard and that your final wishes are met.
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 two witnesses and signed by the two witnesses, in your presence (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has announced that wills can now be witnessed virtually for the first time, via video link. However, the advice remains that where people can make wills in the conventional way they should continue to do so. For more information please read the government guidance.)
- 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
- 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.
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
If a will gifts more than 10% of the taxable estate to charity, the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable is reduced from 40% to 36%. This can benefit all beneficiaries of the estate.
A will can also be amended after someone has died by completing a Deed of Variation. The executor has two years from the date when someone dies to complete a Deed of Variation.
If the will gifts between 3% and 10% to charity, it is most likely that increasing the gifts to charity to 10% will reduce the amount of IHT which will also benefit the non-charitable beneficiaries.
If you are an executor or beneficiary of an estate leaving a gift to Macmillan Cancer Support and are considering doing this, please get in touch with us and we will be happy to discuss it with you.
What is the difference between a single will and a mirror will?
A single will is a will for an individual. Mirror wills are two separate wills which set out the same wishes within both. For example for two spouses or partners.
The two wills would essentially mirror what the other says.
How will Macmillan use gifts in wills?
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.