Everyone hopes to leave some kind of legacy: an invention, wise words, a happy family. Some of us are fortunate enough to benefit from a legacy. The question for all organisations is how to encourage such gifts and how to make them as useful as possible.

People often leave a gift in their Wills to the institution at which they studied and spent their formative years. Most charities, including educational institutions, have fundraising teams who can advise potential donors how to structure the gift so that it is effective. First, the gift should obviously include the charity's name, address, and most importantly, the registered charity number so that it benefits the correct organisation.

Second, general gifts are much more practical, as they allow the charity to spend the funds where they are needed. Restricted gifts can be problematic; sometimes unclear, difficult to put in place or unnecessary.  Wills written a long time before the testator's death may be out of date, leaving a gift to a department that no longer exists or for purposes that are discriminatory.  

Third, the Will should be well written and as flexible as possible.  There is a temptation to set out example wording for gift clauses on the charity's website. This should be avoided if at all possible as it encourages home made Wills and Codicils, which are often unworkable and lead to unnecessary legal fees trying to unscramble them, or sometimes even litigation.  

Donors should be encouraged to seek legal advice when preparing their Wills, so that the gifts are effective and the donor's wishes are correctly fulfilled.  A solicitor will ensure the whole Will works together and provide for good receipt of the gift, including allowing for the possibility of the charity changing form or amalgamating with another charity.  Different considerations apply to gifts or houses, land or personal items than to simple cash gifts.  Similar principles apply to lifetime donations, although they tend to be negotiated in more detail, where restrictions are required.

Finally, legal advice should be sought by donors on the tax efficiency of their gifts.  In particular, it is now possible to reduce the overall rate of inheritance tax by gifting at least 10% of your net estate to charity.