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29 Sept 2022

Willpower: the importance of writing your Will

A view of a garden, filled with colourful flower beds and lush green shrubs and trees. On the lawn area, some patio tables and chairs are set out for tearoom visitors.
Branklyn Garden
Gifts in Wills, also known as legacy gifts or charitable bequests, are incredibly important to our charity. They help us continue to carry out all of our vital conservation work across Scotland.

It is estimated that around 60% of UK adults do not have a Will. Among those who do have a Will in place, many have not updated it to accurately represent their current wishes and circumstances. Having an up-to-date Will is the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out after you’ve gone. It’s one of the kindest things you can do for your loved ones and it helps you support the causes you’re passionate about.

We spoke to James Inglis, Partner at MacRoberts LLP, and asked a few questions about making and updating your Will. Below are some of the thoughts and tips he shared.

Starting with the basics, what is a Will?

James: A Will is a written document in which you state how you wish your assets (often called your estate) to be distributed after you have died.

Wills come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from handwritten notes to lengthy formal documents, depending on circumstances. They don’t need to be complicated but it is best for a Will to be drafted by a solicitor or Will writer, since they deal with technical legal issues and any lack of clarity can lead to difficulties. Although home-made Wills are free, they can lead to costly problems when you are no longer here to put them right.

Why is it important to have a Will?

James: Not having a Will (also known as being intestate) can lead to difficulties, after death.

It is often believed that if a married person dies, the surviving spouse or civil partner will automatically inherit everything. This is not the case – assets may pass to people you would not have chosen.

If you are cohabiting and die intestate, your partner does not automatically inherit your estate and may need to raise a court action. This can be a lengthy and costly process with no guarantee that the court would award them anything.

For all of these reasons, it is best to have signed a properly drafted Will.

A waterfall tumbles down a lush green hillside on a sunny day.
Grey Mare’s Tail

How should you make a Will?

James: Many people, quite understandably, feel intimidated at the prospect of making a Will, but the process can and should be straightforward. It is best to speak to a solicitor or a Will writer; there are plenty of online resources to help you find a professional who suits your approach and budget.

You can find a registered professional through one of the organisations listed below:

Remember a Charity

Law Society of Scotland

The Law Society (England and Wales)

The Law Society of Northern Ireland

What should you consider before you make your Will?

James: Before you meet your solicitor or Will writer, it is helpful if you think about the following points:

  • Who are you appointing as your executors?
    Executors are the people who are responsible for dealing with your assets, implementing your wishes and distributing your estate to your chosen beneficiaries.
  • Do you wish to leave any legacies?
    These are gifts of specific items (jewellery, for example) or cash amounts that are left to chosen individuals or charities. The recipient needs to be clearly specified in the Will, usually by name and address – and charity number if you include a gift to a charity. Any particular items you are leaving to a beneficiary must also be fully described, so your executors can identify them and implement your wishes.
  • You will need to state who is to inherit the bulk of your estate (known as the residue).
    You should also think about nominating fall-back beneficiaries in case the original people die before you. This helps to future-proof your Will.
  • If children are included, you should select the age at which they would inherit.
    You should also ensure that the Will includes sufficient flexibility so that funds can be advanced to them before this age (for example, to help with maintenance and education costs). You can also appoint guardians to look after your children if you die before they become adults.
  • Finally, most people include a short expression of wishes regarding their funeral. This helps to guide your loved ones, particularly if this is an issue that has not been already discussed.

How can you include a gift to a charity in your Will?

James: If you have a charity you particularly wish to support, you have a terrific opportunity to benefit them by leaving a specific sum, or a share of your estate, in your Will. This provides the charity with much-needed funds and can also have tax benefits.

There is no Inheritance Tax on any part of your estate left to charity, as charitable bequests are exempt. Additionally, if you give a certain percentage of your net estate to a charity, the Inheritance Tax Liability on other non-charitable bequests may be reduced. Depending on the value of your assets, this can actually result in your other beneficiaries receiving more than they would if you do not include a legacy to a charity in your Will. It’s best to discuss tax benefits with your solicitor or Will writer.

When including a gift in your Will to a charity, all you need to state is the charity’s name, charity number and registered address.

For the Trust this is:
Charity name
: The National Trust for Scotland
Registered address
: Hermiston Quay, 5 Cultins Road, Edinburgh EH11 4DF
Charity number
: SC007410

Books on shelves in Brodie Castle library
The Library in Brodie Castle

Any final top tips on making a Will?

James: Most importantly, Wills must be in writing. A verbal expression of wishes is not effective and cannot be upheld.

  • Wills need to be clear and unambiguous.
  • Wills need to be correctly signed and independently witnessed. Failure to sign a Will properly can, in extreme cases, make it invalid, but your solicitor or Will writer can guide you through the process to ensure that you avoid any pitfalls.
  • It is important to ensure that your Will is kept up to date. If there are any changes in your circumstances or in your family (for example, the birth of grandchildren, the death or divorce of beneficiaries, incapacity of your chosen executors, etc), these should be reflected in your Will.
  • Don’t put it off! If your Will is out of date, or if you don’t have one, now is the time to put this right.

If you’d like to find out more about supporting our charity with a gift in your Will, please get in touch with us. You can contact Hannah Ennis, our Legacy Fundraising Executive, on or 0131 458 0342.

You can also download our Guide to Gifts in Wills or let us know of your interest in supporting our work with our Gifts in Wills interest form.

The National Trust for Scotland is not in partnership with any Will-writing organisations or solicitors. It is always recommended that you seek a solicitor or Will writer when preparing your Will.