Charitable legacies – going green

Julie Man, Partner in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, private client team. Annika Bell, Senior associate in the Russell-Cooke, private client team
Multiple Authors
3 min Read
Julie Man, Annika Bell

As Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s not easy being green”. 

However, many of us are thinking about how we can reduce our impact on the environment and help protect the planet. Apart from doing what we can now, many will want to know if they can provide a benefit after they have gone for the next generation.

Whilst climate change is happening at a faster rate than previously thought, the greatest impact many of us will be worried about is how it will affect our grandchildren and their children. What world will we be passing on to the next generation?

Charity starts with the environment

One option people are thinking about more is to support environmental charities in their will.

It has always been common for people to make a legacy to charities they have supported in their lifetime.  However, with the reality of climate change and society’s impact on the planet taking centre stage many are now wondering how they can benefit environmental charities so that the next generation can benefit in the world they will continue living in long after we have left.

You can consider leaving a legacy in your will which can benefit one or more charities of your choice and will help support your chosen cause whether that’s a local wildlife charity or an international charity looking to change government policies on CO2 emissions.

There are many charities you can support, and Russell-Cooke often assists charities which support conservation and sustainability including Friends of the Earth, the Ancient Tree Forum and Fields in Trust.

What does tax have to do with it?

For tax year ending April 2022, IHT relief for charitable donations was estimated to be £0.8 billion, down slightly by around 4% from the previous year, according to HMRC tax data.

Apart from the benefit to the charities from receiving your donation, there can also be a benefit to your estate as gifts to charity under your will are exempt from inheritance tax. If you wish to gift a larger portion of your estate (10% or more) your estate could be subject to a lower rate of inheritance tax at 36% rather than 40%.

There are specific requirements to consider and satisfy when building these provisions into a will and so it is important to seek advice if you wish to make gifts to charity or use these exemptions.

One common issue is whether the charity will qualify for the charity exemption and generally, the charity must be based in the EU or certain specified countries with a Charity Registration Number.

Even if the charity’s main headquarters is abroad, they may have a separate branch in England and Wales (or a qualifying jurisdiction) which the gift can be made to as gifts to charities registered in England and Wales are accepted as exempt without any further enquiries by HMRC.

It can also be the case if you wish to support a smaller or more unusual charity that between the date you make your will and when your estate looks to pay the gift that the charity has changed name, joined with another charity or may have been wound up. It is important that the relevant provisions are built into your will to deal with these situations and prevent the gift failing.

Get some green credentials

Whether it is volunteering, making adjustments to be ‘greener’ or providing a gift in your will, maybe it’s not so hard being green after all.

It seems apt to end on a couple of quotes from one of the biggest environmentalists of our time, Sir David Attenborough:

"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."

It's surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth."

Briefings Charities charity law charities charitable legacies gift going green environment