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Be clear on your charity choices

People often include favourite charities as beneficiaries under the terms of their Wills.  It is sometimes motivated by desire to save Inheritance Tax, given that charities are exempt but mostly, people simply wish to benefit a good cause close to their heart.

To ensure the chosen charity does benefit it is very important that the charity is clearly defined within the Will, with its name and registered charity number accurately noted. Many charities have very similar names and this can lead to prolonged wrangling and significant expense if it’s not entirely clear which charity is the intended recipient.

If someone prefers a local branch of a charity to benefit so that their bequest will be put to use in their own community, they must bear in mind that local branches often have separate registration numbers. If not noted, then the money could end up being diverted to the national organisation instead.

It is also important to include some flexibility. For example, where an intended charity has changed its name or even ceased to exist, unless there is a power included for executors to apply the gift to another similar charity, the gift will simply lapse. In some circumstances this can lead to a partial intestacy arising. Also, where a gift is made to a charity for a particular purpose, remember that that project may have completed or may no longer be relevant by the time the donor dies – and if the wording is too rigid this can necessitate an application to the Charity Commission for intervention.

When people make bequests to charity they are seeking to do good. This makes it all the more frustrating when their philanthropic intentions are thwarted by defective or inadequate wording in their Will.

I would always recommend getting advice from a qualified and experienced solicitor to avoid such a situation arising. Do feel free to contact a member of the Napthens’ team if you would like to discuss your ideas for making a charitable bequest through your Will.