Where there’s a Will – leaving a charitable legacy

Where there’s a Will – leaving a charitable legacy

Andy Cowan
Published: 12 Dec 2017 Updated: 13 Jun 2022

While discussing estate planning, many of our clients talk to their financial planners about leaving a charitable legacy as well as passing on an inheritance to those closest to them. Charitable legacies such as these have underpinned the ground-breaking work of Great Ormond Street Hospital since it first opened in Victorian times. To find out more, we spoke to the legacy team at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity about the significant and lasting impact of gifts in Wills.


Extraordinary is a word that comes up regularly when you talk to those involved with the work of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). And extraordinary it is – this NHS hospital in the hectic heart of London has grown to become a world leader in paediatric care and research.

Of course, paediatric care of this calibre doesn’t come cheap and, nor too does its ground-breaking research programme. This is why, as well as funding from the NHS, the hospital relies so heavily on charitable giving, including the legacies that people leave in their Wills.

“Legacies are hugely important to the hospital and in 2016 almost £1 in every £6 raised came from a legacy,” explains Richard Pragnell, Head of Legacies at GOSH Charity. “They enable us to give funds to the areas of greatest need within the hospital.”

These needs are broad-ranging and money from legacies can go towards everything from pioneering research to advanced equipment, building work and support services for children and families.

Support for children and families

"We are very aware that for a child to thrive, the whole family needs to be able to cope so we offer support services paid for by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, such as accommodation, to enable families to be together when they need it most,” explains Judy Anderson, Legacy Development Manager at GOSH Charity. “For example, charity money has helped to fund sofabeds in each child’s room on the wards. It also helps to fund free accommodation close to the hospital where families can stay close by while their children are treated,” she says.

World-renowned research

Turning to the subject of funding for research, Judy says, "GOSH Charity is the largest dedicated funder of paediatric research in the UK and we are investing more than £50 million over the next five years for research into rare and complex childhood conditions. Working closely with the hospital, and its dedicated research institute, the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, we are ideally placed to drive pioneering discoveries out of the labs and on to the wards, helping to unlock the big breakthroughs of the future.”

From Peter Pan to insurance policies

As well as leaving money to the hospital, many people also leave gifts. The most famous example is the rights to Peter Pan, which author JM Barrie gave to the hospital in 1929. Gifts in Wills add an interesting dimension to Richard's role.

"We get an eclectic mix of gifts ranging from properties to investment portfolios to pension nominations to life insurance policies, and royalties of course. Understanding the different assets that people leave us is fascinating and it is incredibly rewarding spending the time understanding the composition and makeup of a supporter's estate and their story behind leaving a gift to us."

A legacy for generations to come

Those leaving a legacy to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity come from all walks of life. There are those who were treated at the hospital themselves, their family members and former members of staff. And there are many others who have no direct connection with the hospital but admire its work and want to support it for generations to come.

As Richard says: "I think one of the most powerful forces that shapes us as human beings is our desire to leave a legacy, and legacies make a phenomenal difference to the work of the hospital." Judy agrees: "I speak to a lot of supporters who have told us they are leaving a legacy gift to us in their Will. They naturally look after their nearest and dearest first and then think about the causes that are closest to their hearts and how they would like to make a lasting impact once they are gone."

Judy goes on to explain how the hospital honours the memory of everyone who leaves a legacy. "We have a lovely book of remembrance that's just outside the entrance to our beautiful Victorian chapel, which Oscar Wilde said was the most beautiful private chapel in Britain. We invite people's family members to the hospital once we have received a legacy gift so they can see how that kindness has helped to save and transform children's lives."

Richard concludes by saying, "The hospital is an incredible place where some of the world’s foremost experts in paediatric treatment care and research work tirelessly to make a difference to the lives of seriously ill children. Being able to show supporters who are considering leaving a gift in their Will around the hospital, so they can see the difference they are going to make, is hugely rewarding."

Leaving your legacy

Our team of expert financial planners regularly help clients to ensure their money goes to the causes they want it to along with passing on an inheritance to their loved ones. Before deciding on whether or not to leave a charitable gift, it’s important to consider the following:

Can you afford to leave a legacy?

Before deciding which causes are closest to your heart, it makes sense to check that you will have enough money to leave a legacy. Whatever your plans for the future, your financial planner can show you how much money you will need and forecast your finances to check that you’re on track. Read our article ‘What will your future look like?’ for more information on this.

Once you know how much money you will need and how much you could have, the next step is to decide what to leave in your legacy. This could be a fixed amount of money, a particular asset, a percentage of your estate or simply whatever’s left after your assets have been distributed to those closest to you.

Is your Will up to date?

The most important step when leaving a legacy is to make sure your Will reflects your wishes. After all, research suggests that 35% of people plan to leave a charitable gift in their Will, but in reality only 7% of people actually do*. An up-to-date Will is essential as it sets out who should receive your money and other assets after you die.

You will also need to draft an Expression of Wishes document. This sits alongside your Will and gives more information about what should happen to your assets. For example, you could specify which charities you want to support or how you would like them to use the donation.

Working with your solicitor

Your financial planner can work with your solicitor to ensure your Will is set up properly and reflects your wishes. An incorrectly worded Will means there is no guarantee that your legacy will come to fruition, and it could also cause disagreements or potentially costly legal issues after you’re gone.

A big tax saving

As well as helping good causes, a charitable legacy can also reduce your Inheritance Tax bill. If you donate more than 10% of your assets, your estate will only be charged 36% Inheritance Tax on the remainder (rather than the usual 40%).

If you were already planning to give a smaller amount to charity, this tax saving could mean that by increasing your donation to 10% you could potentially leave a bigger legacy without reducing the inheritance your beneficiaries receive.

You can find out more about the work of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and its future plans by visiting gosh.org.

Speak to an expert

If you have any questions about estate planning and leaving a charitable legacy, please speak to your usual Tilney contact or get in touch by calling 020 7189 2400, emailing contact@tilney.co.uk or completing this short online form.

*According to research by nfpSynergy, ‘Facts and Figures: Legacies for charities’.


This article was previously published on Tilney prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.