Leaving Money and Gifts to Charity in Your Will


If you’re planning on writing a will to ensure the assets within your estate will be passed on to the people you want them to when you’re no longer here, you may wish to leave a donation to charity so that their hard work they do can continue after your death.

You may want to do this perhaps because you know of a charity that’s very close to your heart or maybe because you have no surviving family members or friends.

Whatever the reason for wanting to leave a gift to charity in your will, also known as leaving a charitable legacy, our guide below explains all you need to know about leaving gifts in your will, how to do it, and we answer a range of commonly asked questions to help you make an informed decision and most importantly, get it right.

Create Your Will & Leave A Gift To Charity

Can you leave a gift in your will?

Yes, you can choose exactly how you want your assets to be distributed in the event of your death and detail this all in a legally-binding will - if you don’t declare your personal wishes in a will, your estate will be distributed according to the UK’s intestacy’s rules, which may not be what you want to happen.

When deciding how to share out your estate in the event of your death, you may want to consider leaving the following types of gifts:

  • Specific gifts: a specific item or amount of money that you wish to leave to someone in particular.
  • Non-specific gifts: a general gift, such as all of your personal possessions or money.
  • Residuary estate gifts: anything left over from your estate after all debts and bills have been paid and all gifts have been shared out - you could leave this to a loved one or a charity, for example.
  • Gifts to children: this is commonly done by setting up a trust within the will.
  • Gifts to charities: you can choose to leave a certain amount of money or a personal item (e.g. jewellery) to a charity of your choice.

Some people may choose to leave a donation to charity in order to reduce the overall value of their estate so that it falls below the nil-rate band and it therefore won’t be subject to inheritance tax.

Read our guides on How to avoid Inheritance Tax and Leaving Gifts in Your Will for further information.

Can I leave everything to a charity?

Yes, if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can choose to leave your entire estate to a charity, but the testator (the person writing the will) must ensure that any close family members are provided for, because if they dispute your will in court after your death, the court may decide to give some or all of your estate to them if it feels they are being put in financial difficulty.

Of course, if you have no surviving family members or close loved ones, there should not be a problem if your will states that you want all of your assets to go to a charity.

Also, if you wish to leave some or all of your estate to a charity, we recommend that you discuss your will with your loved ones so that any issues can be prevented. You should do this anyway, whether you are gifting to charity or not, as it helps keep everyone informed and avoid any arguments or disputes between loved ones when you pass away.

Read our guide to learn more: Talking to Your Family About Your Will

If you want professional advice on leaving some or all of your estate to charity, it is important to get expert advice, especially if you are not sure of the legal consequences should you make a mistake. Contact our team at Wills.Services today or register now to start writing your will and get expert help along the way.

Create Your Will & Leave A Gift To Charity

Are gifts to charity exempt from inheritance tax?

Yes, provided you donate to a UK-registered charity, your donation or gift will not be subject to inheritance tax (IHT).

If you leave a gift or donation to a charity in your will, it will not be included in your nil rate band (NRB), which may help your loved ones avoid having to pay inheritance tax if your NRB is less than £325,000.

Learn more: A Guide to Inheritance Tax Planning

What is a failed gift?

If there are problems, discrepancies or mistakes within your will or if some things are not completely clear, this could result in a gift failure, meaning that your chosen beneficiary (child or charity, for example) will not receive the gift that you wanted to give them in the event of your death.

If anything in the will is unclear regarding the gift and beneficiary (or beneficiaries), or if the beneficiary dies before the testator (you), the gifts will not be given as intended.

You may wish to nominate an additional beneficiary to receive the gift in the event that your initial beneficiary passes away.

Due to the potential complications that could arise, it is highly recommended that you use a professional will-writing service when writing up your final wishes to ensure everything is correct and legally-valid.

Create Your Will & Leave A Gift To Charity

How to leave money or a gift to charity in your will

There are two ways in which you can leave a lump sum, a property, asset or share of your residuary estate when you pass away:

Clearly include the name of your chosen charity

If you have a charity in mind that you’d like to leave a legacy to after your death, whether that’s one such as Battersea or a more local charity that’s personal to you, you will need to clearly state its name and provide its registered charity number in your will. A charity could easily change its name at any point, which could lead to confusion when the time comes, so it’s important to try and include the registered number if you can.

Leave the decision to your trustees

An alternative to the above is letting the trustees of your will choose which charity the money should go to when you pass away. 

If you choose to do this, however, it is important to state your wishes clearly in your will to help them decide which charity to leave your gift or donation to.

Get your will right with Wills.Services

While writing a will yourself is an easier and cheaper alternative to getting a solicitor, it is highly recommended that you get professional guidance when doing so to ensure that your will is legally-binding and to avoid complications and upset for your loved ones when the time comes.

You can register with us for free today to get started on your will and our team of experts will check it over and provide any assistance along the way to make sure it is valid in the eyes of UK law; whether you want to leave a gift to charity or a lump sum to a loved one.

Get started today for free and create an affordable will that fully protects your hard-earned estate and your loved ones’ future in the ways that you want it to.

Create Your Will & Leave A Gift To Charity

Article reviewed 21st September 2021