Making a will

A valid will is the only guaranteed way for your wishes to be carried out and for your legacy to reach the RHS. Making a will isn't complicated and should cost you less than £100.

How to make a will

  • First, appoint a professional adviser - usually a solicitor or bank.
  • Find a solicitor in your area.
  • Next, work out how much you have to leave, including the total sum of your property, money and possessions, less any outstanding mortgages or loans.
  • Decide who you want to benefit from your will: for example, your family, friends and favourite charities or good causes.
  • Choose executors to make sure your wishes are carried out. These can be professional advisers, friends or family members - or one of each.
  • Finally, keep your will safe and make sure your executors know where to find it. Give one copy to your solicitor or bank.

Updating an existing will

It's vital to review your will at intervals to ensure it still reflects your wishes and circumstances. For instance, if you move house or get married, or someone mentioned in your will dies, you may need to change it. Speak to your solicitor or bank about the simplest way to revise your will quickly and cost-effectively.

Different types of gifts

There are four main ways of leaving a gift to the RHS:

A residuary legacy

One of the easiest ways to leave money to a charity. This is the balance of your estate after all debts, taxes, expenses and other gifts have been paid.

You may leave the residue to one person or organisation, or you can divide it among any number of beneficiaries. The value of this type of gift will increase as the value of your estate increases.

A pecuniary legacy

A fixed amount of money. Over the course of time, this type of gift will lose value because of inflation and you may, therefore, wish to index-link your cash gift.

A specific legacy

A gift of specific property such as antiques, shares or paintings.

The Item(s) must be clearly described in your will to avoid any possible confusion.

If the will does not identify the property clearly, the gift may fail.

Remember, also, that if you dispose of the property in your lifetime it will affect the gift in your will.

A reversionary legacy

This is the means of leaving a gift to a chosen beneficiary such as the RHS, while meanwhile allowing another person to have the use of it during his or her lifetime.

For example, you may want someone to have the use of your home for the remainder of his or her life, or of the income from a fund. When s/he dies, the item will then pass to the RHS.

Further information

Can I make changes to my will?

Once your will has been made, signed and witnessed, you shouldn't simply amend it at a later date. Any obvious alterations on the face of the will are assumed to have been made at a later date and so do not form part of the original legally valid will.

You should only change your will by adding a codicil to the will or writing a completely new will. A codicil is a supplement to a will that makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact. This might be done, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change an executor or guardian named in a will, or to add beneficiaries.

A codicil must be signed by the person who made the will and be witnessed in the same way. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original will. There is no limit on how many codicils can be added to a will.

If you wish to make major changes to a will, it is advisable to make a new one. The new will should begin with a clause stating that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. The old will should be destroyed. Revoking a will means that the will is no longer legally valid.

How do I ensure that all my beneficiaries receive what I want, when I do not know how much my estate will be worth when I die?

Your executor is legally obligated to act in your interests, following the wishes expressed in your will. Your executor is responsible for collecting together all the assets of the estate, dealing with all the paperwork and paying all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. Your executor will then pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.

How do I word a will?

View our suggested wording for leaving a legacy to the RHS

Your RHS Gift in Will Guide

See what a difference a gift in your will can make with our free downloadable guide.

RHS Gift in Will Guide (2.3MB pdf)

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