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Have you a favourite cause or organisation that you’d like to benefit from your Estate after your death? Perhaps you’d like to make a specific gift of a sum of money to a charitable or other organisation from your Estate (a bequest)? Simple matters – if you make a Will.

On the other hand, you may have a substantial sum of money (or other assets) that you’d like to allocate for the ongoing support of a favourite charity or some other organisation (a school, for instance)? Once again, a simple matter – through the establishment of a charitable trust, a foundation, or perhaps a scholarship – but only if you make a Will.

In either case the only way of ensuring that your wishes will be carried out is for you to make provision in your Will for those wishes to be implemented in the way you’d like them to be.

If you die intestate (having not made a Will) it’s entirely likely that any charitable or philanthropic notions you may have had during your lifetime will just fall by the wayside, that is, they’ll have no effect on the way the assets of your Estate are distributed, since the Rules of Intestacy will apply.

You could, of course, make a monetary gift to charity (or to an educational institution) before your death, but then – especially with the prevailing economic climate – who’s to know whether that will leave you with enough money to live on for the rest of your life or, indeed, to pass on to any beneficiaries you may need to provide for? You could also set up a foundation, or a charitable trust, or similar, but the same argument that applies to a monetary gift made during your lifetime also applies in that instance.

In certain circumstances gifts made during your lifetime or the establishment of a trust/foundation/scholarship could raise the question: “Why did X take that course of action – was it simply [for instance] to avoid providing for his/her spouse/son/daughter/relative from whom he/she has been estranged for some years?”

If you haven’t made a Will, and it appears that you’ve been attempting to circumvent the Rules of Intestacy to avoid your assets going to one or more family members with a valid claim on your Estate (or even if you have made a Will and the same intent is apparent) then the Court is likely to simply make the charity or other organisation give back any gift or benefit they have received from you – either before or after your death, and put right the inequitable situation perceived to have resulted from your failure to make a Will (or even your failure to make an appropriate Will, given your family situation).

Whilst your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets (as expressed in your Will) may ultimately be overridden by the Court, at least making a Will means that your reasoning in making provision for the distribution of your assets in the way that you have will have to be taken into account and given due consideration.

Please note that LegalVision is a commercial law firm and cannot assist with these matters. We recommend you contact your local law society.

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