How to include a gift in your Will

Whether you have a Will already, or you’re planning to write your first Will, it really isn’t hard to do. It’s best to visit a solicitor, to make sure your wishes for your family and any charities can’t be misunderstood later on.
Kilmore Quay lifeboat crashes through a large wave

Photo: Nigel Millard

Kilmore Quay Tamar class lifeboat 16-18 Killarney

Dying without a Will can create many problems for those left behind, at an already difficult time.

Here are some useful tips to help you make your Will.

Use a solicitor

You may have a family solicitor you already use. If not, ask a relative or friend to recommend one. Or you can find one through our Free Wills Service.

If you are making your Will with your partner, you can make a ‘mirror’ (identical) Will if they are broadly the same.

Before you meet with the solicitor for Will-making advice, it is a good idea to think about:

  • the main things you own - like a house, shares, endowments, savings or life insurance policies - and roughly what they are worth
  • who your executor(s) will be
  • what kinds of gifts you want to leave the people and charities you care about – pecuniary (money) or residuary (whatever is left over) legacies.


The executors of your Will are the people who administer it when you are gone. They tell the beneficiaries about their gifts, and settle any debts you owe. They also deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK and/or the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland if necessary.

You need to be able to trust them, and they need to be prepared to take on this responsibility.

You can name a family member (including someone benefiting from your Will) or a friend. 

Alternatively, you can use a professional like an accountant or solicitor (who will normally require payment from your estate). Or, if you prefer, a combination of relatives, friends and professionals.

Different kinds of gifts

Residuary gifts are made from whatever is left over once gifts of money and specific items have been distributed. You can give the whole of the residue to a person or a charity like the RNLI, or a portion of it. 

Pecuniary gifts are specified sums of money. If you would like a gift of money to keep its value over the years, it is a sensible idea to ask your solicitor to index-link it.

Specific gifts are things, such as a painting, a house or a ring.


Legacy wording

Here is what your solicitor needs to write a residuary gift into your Will to the RNLI:

Subject to the payment of my debts, funeral and testamentary expenses, I give the whole/____% of my estate not otherwise disposed of by this my Will to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (A charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Registered charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland) of West Quay Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HZ for the general purposes of the RNLI and I declare that the receipt of its Treasurer or other proper officer shall be a full and sufficient discharge.

The following wording is for a pecuniary gift to the RNLI:

‘I give free of tax to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (A charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Registered charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland) of West Quay Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 1HZ, the sum of £_____ for the general purposes of the RNLI and I declare that the receipt of its Treasurer or other proper officer shall be a full and sufficient discharge.

For wording of Wills in Ireland, or for any other type of gift you want to put into your Will, please contact the Gifts in Wills Team, on +44 (0)1202 336400 from the UK and Ireland.

Common questions

Do I have to be wealthy to leave a gift in my Will?

Not at all. Many of our lifeboats have been paid for from a gift someone has left in their Will, or a number of gifts, but so have lots of crew members’ protective helmets, drysuits and navigation training. Whatever you can afford, we will turn it into something important and tangible.

Including a gift to the RNLI in your Will doesn’t affect how much money you have to provide for old age. Your estate is calculated based on whatever is left after you die. And if you arrange your gift to the RNLI as a residuary gift, it will only be paid out after all the other gifts you leave to your family or friends have been made.

Wouldn’t it be better to help now rather than later?

Both are great. Many people who leave a legacy to the RNLI also support our lifeboat crews during their lifetime through fundraising or giving donations. Others use their Wills to support our brave volunteer crews for the first time.

Will my money be put to good use?

Six out of ten RNLI rescues at sea are paid for by gifts in Wills. They look after the safety of our lifeboat crews – the brave volunteers who put their lives on the line to save others. Gifts in Wills also support our lifeguards, who keep families safe around our coastline.

What will my family think?

Your Will is a reflection of what matters to you, and for most people that is their family and friends. The RNLI is all about protecting people, and so of course we believe you should protect the people you care about with your Will.

Putting a gift in your Will to charity doesn’t stop you doing that, especially if the gift is from whatever is left over after all your gifts to family have been made.

We find that most families are proud of the gifts their loved ones leave to the RNLI.

Can I choose how my gift to charity is spent?

Yes, if that is important to you. Most people leave their gift to the RNLI without specific conditions so that it can be used wherever it will have the greatest effect. And it can be hard to know where that will be 5, 10 or 20 years ahead.

But if a particular region or service has a special significance for you, we are more than happy to discuss the different options available.

Simply get in touch with Guy Rose, Legacy Manager, on 01202 663008, or through our online form, and he will get back to you swiftly.

Can I add a gift to an existing Will?

Usually, yes. You can use this codicil (PDF 698KB) to add a gift to an existing Will, or to change an instruction in it. But you should use a solicitor to do this, to make sure it fits smoothly with the rest of the gifts in your Will. Under no circumstances should you write on an existing Will itself, and you should keep any codicil you make with your existing Will but not physically attached to it.

It can be easier just to rewrite your Will using our Free Will Service.

Do I need to tell the RNLI about a gift I’m leaving?

You don’t need to, but if you would like to tell us that would be wonderful. We would love to say thank you, and to keep you informed and inspired by our work.

What if I change my mind about a gift to the RNLI?

Circumstances change; we understand that. If you would like to change your mind you can do so.

Jargon buster

Beneficiary: Any person or organisation that receives a gift in your Will.

Bequest/legacy: A gift in your Will.

Codicil: An addition or change to an existing Will. There is a codicil form here (PDF 698KB).

Estate: The total sum of all your possessions, property and money (including life insurance policies and shares).

Executor/executrix: The man or woman you ask to administer your Will when you are gone and make sure your wishes are carried out.

Inheritance tax: The tax due on your estate if it exceeds a certain threshold. It includes the market value of your house when you die. You can find out more about inheritance tax here and whether it may be due on your estate. Or here if you’re in Ireland.

Intestate: The word used to describe someone who has died without a Will.

Pecuniary bequest: A gift of a specific sum of money in your Will.

Probate: This is the legal administrative process of settling your estate after your death. It involves your executors (see above) applying for the legal right to deal with your estate, so that they can settle any outstanding financial obligations, and then distribute your money, property and possessions according to your wishes.

Residuary bequest: A gift of whatever is left over once all other gifts have been made from your estate. You can leave all of the residue or divide it up into portions.

Specific bequest: A gift of a thing, like a house, an antique or a necklace.


If you want to make a change or addition to an existing Will, you can usually do this easily with a codicil. But it is very important to use a solicitor to do this to make sure you aren’t inadvertently upsetting any other arrangements in your Will.

You can download a codicil form here (PDF 698KB).

Or you can simply rewrite your Will for free using our Free Will Service.

Ways to contact us

Our Gifts in Wills Team is available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.


0300 300 0124 (UK)
1800 360 258 (Ireland)



Fill in our short enquiry form

Write to: 

Gifts in Wills Team
West Quay Road
BH15 1HZ