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
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
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

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments