A Solicitor’s Guide on Leaving a Legacy to Pet Charities

It is a staggering statistic but in the year to 31st December 2009 the RSPCA estimated that half their income was derived from legacies or other gifts from estate.

Thu 15 Dec 2016

By Judy

A Solicitor’s Guide on Leaving a Legacy to Pet Charities

It is a staggering statistic but in the year to 31st December 2009 the RSPCA estimated that half their income was derived from legacies or other gifts from estate.  The total income declared was nearly £120 million so every week supporters of the RSPCA are giving over £1 million following their death. In the year to 30 September 2009 another popular charity – the Donkey Sanctuary reported legacy income of over £15 million or 75% if the charity’s income.

As you can see from the information on these two charities legacy income is huge for animal charities and a lot of time and effort is expended by the charities encouraging donations and ensuring that gifts made by generous supporters reach the charity. If you are thinking of making a gift to an animal charity there are a number of things which you should think about.

We all have very different reasons for making a gift to charity and this is especially true of a gift to an animal charity. Maybe we have kept pets all our lives and want to ensure the welfare of animals in the future. There is clearly massive need for charities such as RSPCA to educate pet owners and to ensure that suffering of animals is stopped, for example, by funding and training inspectors who can step in and stop cruelty to animals.

It may be that we have obtained an animal from a re-homing or rescue centre and want to support that work so that the work can continue. We may be interested in seeing that developments in animal healthcare are supported.

In some cases a big national charity will be the ideal recipient for a donation but in others you may want it to be very local and restrict the work to a town or county. This is something that you should think about carefully when making a gift.

As with any important decision the more you think about how you would like your money to be spent and the more you research possibilities the more likely it is that your money will be targeted in the way you most want it to be. You may well have supported a charity during your lifetime and wish to continue this after your death. In this case, you should find out from the charity what its requirements are. Most charities like to receive “unrestricted funds” which means that they can determine what will happen to your gift – this may be funding the general work of the charity which would allow it to determine the best use of the money when the legacy is paid. There will be specific wording required for such a gift which is available from the charity direct or on its website.

In other cases, you may wish to support particular work – for example, funding RSPCA Inspectors or only supporting the work of the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon. This is known as a restricted gift and although less attractive to the charity it is still a generous gift and is unlikely to be refused. It would, however be a good idea to discuss any more targeted gift with the charity to make sure that your wishes can be carried out. Most charities will try to accommodate your wishes but if you limit the gift too much – eg the care of Golden Retrievers aged more than three years old in Monmouth it may not be possible to carry out your wishes and the gift may have to be refused. If you have a particular project – perhaps an animal shelter in the name of your family do as much groundwork as you can.

In some cases you may wish to leave a legacy to support some other wish. The most common example is when you leave money to a charity on condition that it cares for or re-homes your pets. Once again, it is important that you seek advice from the charity and make sure that this can be delivered. If for some reason the charity stops this activity what would you want to do then – find another charity or think of another way of caring for your pet?

Always try to use the official wording suggested by your favourite charity – uncertainty can lead to difficulties for the charity which may only be resolved after costly legal advice and I am sure that you would not want your gift to be used up paying lawyers rather than supporting the work of the charity! Think what you would like to happen if a charity changes its name or merges or closes down. Do you want the gift to go to an alternative charity or not? Every charity has a charity number and it is advisable to use this when specifying your gift. A legacy to the South London Animal Shelter may be intended for several alternative recipients but the charity number will put the matter beyond doubt. You may think that a gift to a major national charity is easier to manage but the RSPCA for example has a huge number of local groups each with their own registration. If you want the Essex branch to receive your gift say so.

Pet owners are generous people and often want to leave money to support their own pets or causes which promote and support the welfare of animals. Advance preparation and good advice with your will ensure that your kindness is repaid with a targeted gift which will be used to maximum advantage.

Article by Clarke Willmott LLP

Clarke Willmott LLP is a national law firm with roots in the South West, serving regional, national and international businesses and private clients from our offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Taunton, Southampton and London.