Read our answers to frequently asked questions about leaving a legacy.

    • A will is the only way of ensuring that your dependants are provided for in the way you wish after your death. Verbal agreements made during your lifetime have no legal effect, so loved ones could suffer – especially a partner to whom you are not married.

      If you die without a will – or ‘intestate’ – a court will appoint administrators to deal with the distribution of everything you own – your ‘estate’. They won’t know your personal wishes and priorities and will divide your estate according to strict rules you will have no control over.

      Finalising the affairs of someone who has died intestate takes far longer and is much more complicated, causing legal wrangles and delays during which time your loved ones will be unable to gain access to the money you intended for them. The resulting legal costs could even reduce the value of the estate itself. What’s more, there can be a lot of anxiety and resentment on the part of those landed with the job of sorting it all out.

      Where your estate is more than adequate for your dependants, a Will lets you leave money to causes like Marine Society that you are passionate about. This can’t be done without a will.

    • It is always best to have your will drawn up by an experienced solicitor. A will is a legal document and trying to write your own can be difficult. One slip can cause the whole document to be invalid.

    • The cost of a straightforward will is probably less than you think – normally under £100, though it is worth getting quotes from several solicitors. It will be money well spent on ensuring your wishes are followed and your loved ones are protected from distressing delays and confusion.

    • Keeping your will up-to-date is as important as making it. Your wishes, your circumstances and your family can change over the years – and the value of specific gifts will be eroded by inflation. The main reasons for updating your will are:

      • Marriage and divorce Under English law, marriage revokes a will and provisions in favour of a spouse normally cease to have effect following divorce. A new will is essential after these events.
      • Children and grandchildren The arrival of a new child in the family always calls for a review. The birth of grandchildren, or a separation or death in the family may also necessitate changes.
      • Substantial inheritances An update is appropriate following the receipt of a substantial inheritance.
    • Never write on your will – that would invalidate it. Major changes may call for a new will, which would be easier to arrange the second time around.

      Minor additions can be made using a separate document called a codicil, which must be signed and witnessed as with the will, though the witnesses need not be the same. It must be kept with the will but not attached to it.

      Giving to a cause that you wish to support, such as Marine Society, can readily be done by adding a codicil to an existing will. If in doubt, contact your solicitor.

    • Details of solicitors in your area specialising in Wills, probate and tax law work can be found by searching the Law Society website (www.lawsociety.org.uk) or calling their general enquiries line on 0207 242 1222.

    • You must choose the people you would like to administer your estate (usually two). One could be your solicitor or bank manager (who normally require payment for this service) – the other could be a relative or friend (preferably younger). It’s important to gain their consent before naming them.

    • For the will to be legal it must be signed by you in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign it. They must not be beneficiaries or related to beneficiaries.

    • Once you have calculated the total worth of your assets and made all deductions, you will know the value of your estate. You can now draw up a list of those whom you wish to benefit, by how much and in what way. At this point, you may also consider leaving Marine Society a share of the residue that is left over once all major gifts have been made.

    • Our supporters decide to leave a gift to us for different reasons. Many do because they themselves have had a direct experience with the Marine Society, others, because their spouse or siblings had a direct experience but unfortunately never had the opportunity to leave a gift. The one thing people leaving a gift to Marine Society have in common is that they understand the important role we play in helping young people and the professional development of seafarers at sea.

    • There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ gift in someone’s will. People leave gifts of all amounts to the MSSC – from a few hundred pounds to tens and even hundreds of thousands. If you do decide to leave a gift, whatever you can give will make a difference, as your support directly impacts the lives of young people and seafarers.

    • There are three main types of gift that you can leave to individuals and organisations.

      • A pecuniary gift
        When you make a gift of a specific sum of money to Marine Society. You can speak to your solicitor about protecting the value of your gift by directly linking it to the cost of living, so that it doesn’t reduce over time.
      • A specific gift
        When you make a gift of a specific item to Marine Society, such as a property or jewellery.
      • A residuary gift
        This is a gift of all or part of what is left of your estate after taxes and debts are paid and all your other legacies have been distributed – known as the ‘residue.’

      Your will must include instructions for the distribution of your estate’s residue otherwise the Government will distribute it according to current legislation.

    • Of course, we are always delighted to receive specific gifts, which can provide a much-needed boost to our resources.

      However, a residuary gift is by far the most effective way of remembering us in your will because it ensures that your family and dependents are provided for in exactly the way you want and we receive much-needed funds that will help us plan our work with confidence. Moreover, because its value tends to adjust in line with inflation, it means that we receive the support you intended, regardless of changing financial situations.

    • Gifts in Wills play an important role in our income and if you don’t limit your gift to a specific area of work it can be incredibly helpful for us – we can use your gift wherever the need is greatest. Please contact our Fundraising Team on 020 7654 7018 or email fundraising@ms-sc.org to discuss your specific gift in more detail.

    • At the moment, if your estate is worth over £325,000, your loved ones could end up paying Inheritance Tax at 40%, meaning that they actually receive far less than you intended. Yet, there is a way to beat Inheritance Tax and ensure you pass your wealth on to your family, not the taxman.

      By leaving a gift in your will to Marine Society for the excess of your estate above £325,000, you can make sure your family receive the full amount intended to them.

      This means that making a gift to Marine Society in your will could not only help fund all our life changing work, it could also be just enough to bring your remaining estate below the Inheritance Tax threshold and make sure your family gets exactly what you want them to.

      To discuss this, or any other aspect of leaving a gift to MSSC in your will, please feel free to call our Fundraising Team on 020 7654 7018 or email: fundraising@ms-sc.org. They will be very happy to help you.

    • If you have children under 18 you should appoint guardians. This provides for their care in the event of your partner dying before you or at the same time. Again, check that those named are agreeable to taking on this responsibility.