Can I leave my whole Estate to Charity UK?

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Gifts to Charities in our Wills can be challenged in a number of ways. 

The law allows us to leave our whole estate (also called our Residuary Estate) to whomever we please.  And, if you want charities to benefit from your inheritance, you MUST make a Will to ensure that happens.

Can I give my Inheritance to Charity?

Yes! It is a common misconception that our Will must gift our estate to our families – when in fact your Will can gift your inheritance to the person or charity of your choice.

What is the best way to leave money to Charity?

If you want to leave a gift of residue or cash legacy to a charity or charities when you die then the way to do that is to include those gifts in your Will.

Can I donate Property to a UK Charity in my Will?

You can, but it is more normal to leave the charity a cash legacy or gift of the residue of your estate.  If you want to gift property, ask your expert wills solicitor to liaise with the charity when making your Will to see if the Charity feels able to accept that gift.

What details should I include in my Gift to Charity in my Will?

Your will should specify: –

  • AMOUNT – legacy or gift of residue
  • RCN – registered charity number (this is for identy purposes and avoid confusion)
  • ADDRESS – as with the RCN this is to avoid confusion over identity

What if a Charity changes its name after I make my Will?

A well drafted Will should cover this specifying what should happen.  This is perhaps a good example of the benefits of using an expert Wills solicitor to draft your will.  If the Will does not cover this off, the gift may fail and this element of your estate may then fall into intestacy rules.

Should I make a Cash Legacy gift to a Charity?

A Cash Legacy is specified amount gifted in your Will to the charity of your choice.  Cash legacies tend to be ‘token’ amounts and are specified sum.

What does a Cash Legacy to Charity look like in my Will?

A cash legacy to a charity in your Will might look something like this:-

I GIVE £5,000 (five thousand pounds) to BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION (RCN 225971) of Greater London House 180 Hampstead Road London NW1 7AW

Gifts to Charities in our Wills can be challenged in a number of ways.

Can I give a share of my Estate to Charity?

Yes – this is called a gift of the ‘residue of your estate’ and it is quite normal to gift a share of your estate to charity.  Unlike a cash legacy to charity (which is a specified amount), a gift of the residue of your estate is specified as a percentage of the whole (after legacies and expenses).

What does a Gift of Residue to a Charity look like in my Will?

If the gift was for your whole estate to pass to a charity, then the specific clause in your will dealing with that might look something like this (NB there would be other clauses):-

I GIVE the whole of my estate to Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RCN 209603) of West Quay Poole Dorset BH15 1HZ

Can my family challenge my Will gifting to Charity?

Well, anyone can challenge a Will, the real question is – will such a challenge succeed.  In very broad terms, whilst we are free to leave our inheritance to whomever we please, our Wills can be challenged on the following grounds:-

  • Family dependant – a family member who was financially dependent upon you but your Will makes little or no provision for them in keeping with that dependency
  • Capacity – the deceased was not of sound mind when they made the Will
  • Duress – that you made a Will under pressure to benefit someone
  • Administrative – if a Will is completed and executed properly (in accordance with law) the whole will may fail

What happens if my Will ‘fails’?

If the whole or part of your will fails, then that part of your estate may fall to the rules of intestacy.  This is where the law decides what relatives receive your estate.  This is why it is so important to ensure that gifts to Charities are drafted properly and to cover this sort of eventuality.

What is an RCN number for a Charity Legacy?

RCN stands for ‘Registered Charity Number’ and it is included in the details of the Charity you are gifting to ensure that their correct identity is specified.

Is Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable on gifts to Charities in my Will?

Charities are deemed ‘Exempt Beneficiaries’ for the purposes of Inheritance Tax (IHT).   In short, this means that gifts (of reside or specific legacies) will be free of IHT.

Re Benham or Re Radcliffe?

However, there are circumstances within which gifts to charities are indirectly taxed.  This is where your Will gifts the residue of your estate partly to charities, and partly to ‘non-exempt beneficiaries’ (eg friends).  IHT is then calculated in one of two ways in these circumstances – known as either Re Benham or Re Radcliffe rules (2 complicated tax cases).  One allocated the whole IHT saving to charitable beneficiaries meaning they receive the actual percentage gifted to them in the Will.  The other calculates the IHT across the whole estate and then allocates it across all beneficiaries and the net estate.  This will reduce the amounts payable to charities, but increase the amount paid to the non-exempt beneficiaries (friends given in this example).

You should speak to your Wills solicitor or tax advisor for advice on this if you intend to gift your estate in this way to ensure that you are happy with how the IHT against your estate will be calculated.

Need more help with making gifts in your Will to Charity?

If you need more help with the subjects covered here then do reach out to our expert wills and charity solicitors.  You can email us at or call 03300 020 365.

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