The dividing of an estate can be complex and troubling to deal with, even if wishes are documented in a valid Will. Emotions can run high; disputes over an estate can erupt within the closest of families.

It is vital that property contained in your Will is processed appropriately, to avoid future problems arising. Some disappointed beneficiaries may seek further action to challenge what you have chosen to do within your Will.

There are many reasons why someone would choose to leave their estate to charity, rather than children or dependants.

A charity may be significantly important as a result of the care and support it has offered you during your life time. Or, your dependants and children are already comfortably well-off and not in need; a charity would benefit greatly from the proceedings.

If you are estranged from your family and are no longer in contact, leaving your estate to charity is a common scenario.

We do advise conciliatory discussions, to resolve family disputes. However, we are equally aware that irretrievable situations occur. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is possible to isolate family from being a beneficiary of your estate, but in Scotland you must leave a reserved quota to certain relatives.

Challenging an estate

A court may award a percentage of an estate to a relative if they are close family, or someone that relies on you financially. A family member can bring a claim to court, if it’s demonstrated they would otherwise be in financial difficulty. It is possible that a family member, who reasonably expects to be a beneficiary of an estate, would challenge a Will in court.

If you are certain you wish to leave your estate to charity, it is crucial that you advise your family on doing so- to avoid future legal costs and delays.

Family disputes are problematic, but going through the correct channels of communication will aid complications after your death. You need to demonstrate that you have done enough to prevent this by way of reasoned explanation.

You should:

  1. Prepare a sworn affidavit,  demonstrating your intentions and how they should not be challenged.
  2. Explain you decision in writing to leave with your will, giving reasons why the charity should be the beneficiary.
  3. In order to prevent the decision being contested on grounds of mental incapacity, include a certificate from a medical professional proving you were of sound mind when making the decision.
  4. Discuss your intentions with a professional Will advisor, explaining your reasons.

How to ensure your estate goes to charity

In order to safeguard your intentions and ensure your estate goes to a charity, you need to make the following arrangements:

Choose a future proof charity that isn’t in danger of being wound up or merged with another charity before you die. Consider including a second or third charity as options if the above happens. Also, consider setting up a charitable trust. This would indicate how you wish the funds to be used, and leave it to the trustees to decide on suitable projects/causes to be funded.

At any stage, should you wish to discuss your actions with a specialist, call our Wills and Probate department at Ison Harrison Solicitors. We will advise you on your options, and whether your actions are likely to go unchallenged and your wishes accepted.  Call today on 0113 284 5086 or alternatively dominic.mackenzie@isonharrison.co.uk.

We will ensure your estate is divided exactly how you wish.