Writing or amending your Will

Here’s information on how you can update your Will and get it witnessed. As well as a guide to the three types of charitiable gifts you can include in your Will.

If you are updating an existing Will

Government guidelines suggest that you should review your Will every 5 years and after any major change in your life. This could include:

  • Getting a divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership
  • Getting married (this cancels any Will you made before)
  • Having a child
  • Moving house
  • Appointing a new executor if, for example, a named executor has died.
  • Changes in your financial circumstances, assets and liabilities.
  • Updating your wishes regarding your funeral, burial or cremation.

If you've already made a Will and want to make a small update, you can do this without rewriting the whole thing. Instead you can amend your Will with a document called a Codicil.

A Codicil is a written document that lets you make small and simple changes to your original Will without having to rewrite it from scratch. It's prepared under the same formalities required for a Will and is only valid when it refers to the Will it amends. Codicils are recognised in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

So a Codicil acts as an amendment to your Will, and will need to be properly drawn up and signed in the same way as a Will for it to be valid - you must sign the codicil and get it witnessed. And it's important you keep it in the same place as your Will. It is often useful to consult a solicitor or Will-writing service to create a Codicil. All types of gifts to charity can be added to an existing Will using a Codicil - and we have provided some suggested wording below to help you.

For more complicated or major changes a new Will may be necessary. Your new Will should explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous Wills and Codicils. You should then destroy your old Will by burning it or tearing it up. It's useful to seek professional advice from a solicitor or Will-writing service when creating a new Will.

When making changes to their Will, many people consider leaving a legacy to charity. Once you've looked after your family and friends, it's a wonderful way to make sure the causes you care about can carry on their important work. For Brooke these gifts in Wills are extremely special; without them working equines would face an uncertain future.

There are three types of gifts you can include in your Will to a charity such as Brooke.

Residuary gift – a share of your estate

A residuary gift will leave Brooke a share or the whole of the remainder of your estate after your other wishes and expenses have been met. With a residuary legacy, your gift may grow over time as the value of your estate increases. You can decide what share of the remainder (residue) you want to gift to Brooke.

What to say

“I give the whole of my residuary estate (or x% of the residue of my estate) to the Brooke Hospital for Animals of 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3A 2BJ, Charity Registration No. 1085760 for its general charitable purposes and the receipt of the proper officer of the Brooke Hospital for Animals shall be a full and sufficient discharge for the said legacy.”

Pecuniary gift – a specified sum of money

A pecuniary gift is the gift of a specified amount of money. By leaving a pecuniary legacy to Brooke you can fix an amount in your Will, but its value may be reduced over the years by inflation.

What to say

“I give the sum of £x to the Brooke Hospital for Animals of 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3A 2BJ, Charity Registration No. 1085760 for its general charitable purposes and the receipt of the proper officer of the Brooke Hospital for Animals shall be a full and sufficient discharge for the said legacy.”

Specific gift – a particular item

A specific legacy is the gift of a physical item or items in your Will to Brooke. For example, this could be property, or stocks and shares.

What to say

“I give my (description) to the Brooke Hospital for Animals of 2nd Floor, The Hallmark Building, 52-56 Leadenhall Street, London, EC3A 2BJ, Charity Registration No. 1085760 for its general charitable purposes and the receipt of the proper officer of the Brooke Hospital for Animals shall be a full and sufficient discharge for the said legacy.”

 

Donkey and foal

“I always thought Brooke just scratched the surface in improving the lives of working animals. But by communicating and sharing knowledge with generations of owners, they’re able to reach millions of equines across the globe. And I want to help continue that.”

Julie has left a gift in her Will as she wants to be part of a future where no working animal needlessly suffers.

Will I have to pay tax on the gift left in my Will?

No. Any amount you leave to a charity will usually be exempt from inheritance tax. 

If you’re worried about the Inheritance Tax that might have to be paid when you die, donating some of your money to charity – in your Will – can reduce the bill. Leaving a part or your entire estate to charity can reduce, and in some situations, eliminate the Inheritance Tax liability. This is due to the rule that states if you leave something to charity in your Will, then it won’t count towards the total taxable value of your estate.  This is called leaving a ‘charitable legacy’.

What’s more, if you choose to leave 10% or more of your taxable estate to a charity, not only will you save inheritance tax on the gift, but the tax liability on the rest of the estate will drop from 40% to 36%.  Therefore making use of these rules can reduce the cost of leaving a gift to your preferred charity. 

Your Solicitor or Will-writer should be able to provide more detailed advice on inheritance tax planning to enable you to maximise your gifts to your family, your friends and your preferred charity.

See the HMRC website for more details.

How to get your Will witnessed

In order for a Will to be legally valid it needs to be signed by both the person making it and two independent witnesses who are not family, a beneficiary, or the spouse of a beneficiary.

Ideally, all three should be physically present in the same place when this happens. However the government has now made it legal for remote witnessing of Wills – but the quality of the sound and video must be sufficient to see and hear what is happening. It is worth noting the use of video technology should remain a last resort.

There’s no rule as to where on your Will you should sign. However, signing at the end of your Will is the most obvious place, and doing so indicates you have read and taken into consideration the entire document. It's also a good idea to ask your witnesses to sign your Will below your signature, as this indicates they signed your Will after you. Each witness should state their full name, address and occupation under their signature.

The witness to a Will must meet the following conditions:

  • Over 18 years of age.
  • Entirely independent of the person making the Will. But the witnesses do not have to be independent of each other - you can ask a husband and wife each to be witnesses.
  • It’s important that neither of the people witnessing your signature of your Will, nor their spouse or civil partner, receive any sort of benefit under your Will. However, if your witnesses are professional trustees or executors, and are charging for their services, then this restriction does not apply to their professional charges.
  • The witnesses must understand what it is they are witnessing. This means that they need to understand that they are witnessing your signature on a document.

Gov.uk provides more information.

Find out more about including a gift in your Will

Please be aware that this is for information only and not intended to be legal advice. Please make sure you seek legal advice before putting these measures in place as the requirements to make a Will legal may change.

SEE ALSO

See how we will use your gift to protect as many working horses, donkeys and mules as possible.

Our legacy specialists can help with any questions you might have about including a gift in your Will.

Things to consider when leaving a gift in your Will, as well as key legal terms and what they mean.