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Image of the Holy Spirit on the Stephen Foster triptych at Northampton Cathedral

Wills and legacies
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The text on this page is substantially drawn from a full-colour leaflet distributed to parishes in March 2008. Click here to e-mail for supplies of this, and/or for an advisory booklet for clergy and Finance Committees.
What will you leave behind ? Minimize

Brin DunsireBy Brin Dunsire, former Planned Giving Officer

Not a subject that most of us are keen to think about - or very good at “getting round to”! This applies to me as much as anyone - even as an ex-solicitor, it took me five years to organise new Wills for myself and my wife: eventually we waited until her youngest was 18, thus making all the wording a lot simpler !

Lots of things keep us from taking this most important step of “putting our affairs in order”. We worry that a making a Will could be costly, and it requires us to think about unpleasant things, like our own deaths.

But it’s important and worthwhile to get this sorted out while we still can. None of us can predict the future - but having a good Will means that we can be reasonably sure that our God-given wealth will go where we would want it to go.

If we die without a Will, there are laws which decide where our money goes. Often, these will have the same result as we would wish.

But in these days of more complex family relationships, you can’t rely on that. If you have step-children or a dear friend, no matter how much loved, they don’t get anything of yours if you haven’t named them in a Will.

Most of us - especially if we survive our spouses - are worth far more dead than alive. However things may have slowed down in the last few years, the increased value of our houses mean than many of us will leave assets worth £¼ million and more, even if we’ve had to struggle to pay our Council tax !

I’ve often heard, as I’ve made appeals in churches, something like “I wish I could give more; but my health means I can’t work/ my husband’s been made redundant/ I can barely manage to live on my pension as it is”.

God’s call to be generous

We are all called to be generous givers. We are called to make offerings to God in thanks- giving for all that He has given us.
But for many who have found, through no fault of their own, that money has been in short supply, a generous gift in a Will may turn out to be the last opportunity to make that thanksgiving. 

Leaving something to your Church in your Will makes sure that you will have been able to help Jesus’ work on Earth, even if you haven’t been able to give much (apart from your time and your prayers, which are of enormous value !) during your lifetime.

Your family and close friends must always come first, of course; but once they have been provided for, a gift, perhaps, of a suitable percentage of your final wealth can be of wonderful value to your parish; the needs are always so great !

couple in front of houseFor the Church - or the taxman ?

Anything you leave to a Charity (like the Church) is tax-free. It gets taken off the value of your property before your estate is assessed for Inheritance Tax. Nor does any tax have to be paid by the charity. What you leave is what they get.

Possibilities for the parish

A legacy, especially if it can be a share in your total estate rather than a fixed sum, can make such a huge difference to your Parish.
It might mean being able to employ someone, for example a parish administrator, to relieve the burden on the priest; or a youth worker, as an investment in the future of the parish through its young people.

It might pay for a much-needed repair, or buying something of beauty for the glory of God, or resources to be used for the mission of the Church.

... And a last few tips

You can specify the purpose of a legacy, if you wish. But things may have changed by the time your gift becomes payable ! Unless you feel strongly about it, maybe it’s best to leave it open. For the same reason, it’s wise not to leave a legacy that names your parish priest ( “to be spent as Fr. X chooses”) as he may not be there at the relevant time.

So, whenever the time is right for you to think about making or changing your Will - would you remember your parish ? Once your family and friends are provided-for, ask your lawyer to use one of the clauses given below.

Thank you, and may God bless you with a long and happy life !


For a share of your estate

“I give X% [ or a fraction ] of my residuary estate, free of all tax or duty, to the Northampton Roman Catholic Diocese Trustee whose Registered Office is at Bishop’s House, Marriott Street, Northampton NN2 6AW, for the benefit of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [ name of parish and town, and any specific fund or purpose ] ”

For a fixed amount

“I give to the Northampton Roman Catholic Diocese Trustee whose Registered Office is at Bishop’s House, Marriott Street, Northampton NN2 6AW, the sum of £. . . . . free of all tax or duty for the benefit of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [ name of parish and town, and any specific fund or purpose ] ”

And you can, if you wish, leave something to the Diocese rather than to one parish. Just replace the words "for the benefit of...." with the phrase "to be used as the Bishop shall see fit".



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In the 2011 Budget, "the Chancellor announced an entirely new rate of Inheritance Tax for persons who die after 6th April 2012 leaving a significant proportion of their estate to a charity.

If the deceased has left 10% or more of his/her net estate to charity, the tax rate that will be applied to the other 90% (or less) will be reduced from 40% to 36%. Net estate for this purpose means the value after deducting all other IHT exemptions, reliefs and the nil rate band.

So the £10m net estate that leaves £1m to charity will save 4% on the other £9m leaving an extra £360,000 for the family beneficiaries. So if this testator was thinking of giving only £900k to charity, but now increases that by £100k to £1m, he will have increased the amount his family beneficiaries receive by £260k." (This section contributed by John Conlan, accountant with Baker Tilly, Birmingham.)

Wealthy parishioners making Wills should therefore be aware of this provision, and encouraged to consider that an increase in their charitable legacies can bring more money for their other legatees at the same time.

Copyright 2019 by the Catholic Diocese of Northampton, Registered Charity No. 234091