Domestic goddess Nigella Lawson recently hit the headlines with her declaration that she intends to leave her entire fortune to various charities rather than bequeath any of it to her children. Her 64-year old partner, Charles Saatchi, takes the polar opposite view and believes that his and Nigella’s combined three offspring from previous marriages should inherit the lot, currently estimated at £110million.
Whatever resolution the two finally agree to their disagreement, it has brought into focus the fact that charities benefit greatly from the proceeds of many people’s estates. Whether or not you agree with Ms. Lawson’s philosophy of letting the kids ‘do it for themselves’, leaving a legacy to charity is definitely a very noble action.
One of the most notable charitable legacies in the UK is the Wellcome Foundation, formed using the fortune of Sir Henry Wellcome after his death in 1936. However, many modern billionaires are not waiting until they die, but instead have decided to distribute their fortunes to charities whilst still alive, prompted by the decision of Bill Gates. The Microsoft chairman has set up a $7billion foundation which aims to close the considerable health and education gaps between Western and third world countries.
But, whilst billionaires can set up their own charitable foundations there are scores of existing worthwhile charities that constantly need funding. Charities derive a significant amount of their income from bequests and it’s not just multi-millionaires or billionaires that provide charitable legacies; many ordinary folk like to leave a portion of their accumulated wealth to charity following their death. Indeed, many smaller contributions soon add up and it is those donations that can often mean the difference between charities carrying on their good work or being forced to give up.
Bequeathing money in this way is straightforward and all it takes is the addition of a few words to your will. Most charities will furnish you with examples of legacy wording and, of course, most solicitors are also familiar with the process. Sadly, one in five people die without making a will and their estates pass into probate, causing considerable financial and logistical problems at a time of grief for their family.
By sitting down and sorting out a will, you have the security of knowing that your wishes will be respected after your death. Not only will you be able to document the distribution of your assets between family, friends and charitable causes, but you can include instructions on how you wish your funeral to be conducted.
So, whether or not you want to go the Nigella route and leave all your worldly goods to charity, make a will and make sure everyone knows your wishes.