Where there's a will, there is a way

We don't like to think about dying but should not forget the fight for life, says Sharon Kingman

MAKING a will is something that many people put off doing until it's too late. And if it's too late for them to say where they want their money to go, it's too late for charities such as Marie Curie Cancer Care to benefit from their generosity.

To encourage people to make their wills - and remember Marie Curie Cancer Care when doing so - the charity is launching a video made by Hat Trick Productions, the makers of Channel 4's Drop the Dead Donkey series. In the 10-minute video, the actor Stephen Tompkinson (who plays Damien in Drop the Dead Donkey) appears as an angel, while Jimmy Mulville plays the hapless character who hasn't made a will by the time his number is up.

The comedian Roy Hudd also makes an appearance, observing that no one likes to think about "the D-word" - but that unless people make wills they have no say in what happens to their property. Making a will is not that difficult, Mr Hudd observes: "The courts have upheld wills written on Christmas cards, the rungs of stepladders and even one written by a housewife in a recipe book." Her instructions for preparing a chili sauce ended with the words "Measure tomatoes when peeled. In case I die before my husband, I leave everything to him."

There are endless possibilities for fun and mischief when making your will, Mr Hudd says. For example, in 1987 one person left £400,000 between 15 relatives - provided that they passed eight O-levels or qualified as airline pilots within two years of his death (a difficult task, as most of them were in their seventies).

A man called Edward Horley instructed his solicitors to buy a lemon and send one half to the Income Tax Inspectorate and the other to the Collector of Taxes, each with the same message: "Now squeeze this!"

And a retired RAF Group Captain left a bequest to his old school, on condition that they spell his name correctly in the sports pavilion team list of the rugger First XV for 1916.

But the underlying message is a serious one. Although people can buy do-it-yourself forms for making a will, Mr Hudd recommends seeking the advice of a solicitor. People who are concerned about the cost should obtain a quote first.

Mr Hudd points out that gifts to charity are exempt from Inheritance Tax. A donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care, he says, will go towards the support of patients and research into the causes and treatment of cancer: "Your legacy could help to reduce the risk of cancer for future generations."

Legacies are certainly an important source of income for Marie Curie Cancer Care. This year, the charity will obtain about £11m of income from more than 800 legacies, in amounts ranging from £50 to more than £1m.

Ken Walker, head of appeals at Marie Curie Cancer Care, says legacies form the one area in which donations have grown over the past few years and are forecast to grow in future. Part of the reason for this, he says, is the inflation in house prices that took place during the 1970s and 1980s.

There are two ways in which people can leave money to charity in their wills. One is to specify a cash gift - although as its value will decrease over time with inflation, the amount should be regularly reviewed. The other is known as a residuary gift, in which supporters can opt to leave all or a part of the residue of their estate to the charity.

The average value of a cash legacy to Marie Curie Cancer Care, Mr Walker says, is £1,000 to £2,000, while that of a residuary gift is more than £20,000. Sometimes the unexpected happens, he adds: "In one recent case, a woman had left a very simple will on two sheets of paper, specifying cash sums to her nephews, nieces and other relatives, with the residue to us. We were surprised to be notified that she had £3.7m in shares, many of them in a well-known pharmaceutical company.

"That weekend, the pharmaceutical company got permission to market one of its drugs in the United States - and by the time we got back to work on Monday morning, the bequest was worth more than £4m."

Two-thirds of the legacies that come to Marie Curie Cancer Care are from people who have supported the charity in the past following direct mail appeals. Mr Walker says: "We are there to make friends with them over a long period of time. If they are satisfied with what we do, the regular givers may sign deeds of covenant, which give a higher level of commitment. Ultimately, some of those 500,000 people on our direct mailing list will think about leaving something to Marie Curie Cancer Care in their wills." Most of the legacies the charity is receiving now have come from people who began to donate money to it about 15 years ago.

Mr Walker says: "The income from legacies is very important to us. We take every opportunity to remind people about this. Without our legacy income, we would only be able to sustain two-thirds of the services we currently provide."

Making a will is not something that is easy to discuss with strangers, Mr Walker admits. "This is why the offer of help from Hat Trick Productions was so valuable. We thought humour would be a good way of introducing the subject of legacies and our own mortality - and that the video would make it easier for our local representatives to bring the subject up when they address groups of volunteers."

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star