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How often have you been asked, "What happens when you die?" You have probably answered along the lines of returning to the dust and sleeping in the earth until the Lord Jesus Christ returns when the resurrection will take place. All perfectly in line with Bible teaching.

But have you ever stopped to think about those who are left behind when you die? Each year over 60% of those who die in the UK do so without having written a will. In legal terms this is known as dying intestate. You may ask what the problem is: everything I have will automatically go to my spouse/children/siblings or whoever. It may surprise you to learn that that is not necessarily the case. In fact, many who die intestate leave a trail of debts and anguish for their loved ones to deal with and who gets what is determined by the Government, often taking a large portion for themselves.

Making a will is the only way you can be sure that your wishes will be followed after you die. If you do not, part or all of your estate may go to people whom you never intended to benefit.

Clearly, we cannot give legal advice here, and anything to do with wills is best dealt with by those trained to deal with them: solicitors or registered will writers. Homemade wills can become a legal nightmare because of badly worded phrases, and the costs of getting a simple will written professionally will probably be in the region of 200: money well spent for peace of mind.

The exact wording needs to be discussed with a professional – your "son" or "daughter" for instance could be a younger member of the ecclesia that you treat as your own, but in actual fact has no legal title to your estate. It is this type of complication that a competent professional should help you deal with.

Once you have decided to make, or amend, your will, what are you going to write? This is your opportunity to determine what should happen to the wealth the Lord has blessed you with in this life, when you fall asleep. It is your opportunity to help members of your family, or remember a dear friend, or help one of the many Christadelphian charities to further their work. There are 3 different types of gift that you can include in your will:

  • A Pecuniary Gift (sometimes referred to as a bequest) – this is a set sum of money, e.g. "I leave to the Christadelphian Bible Mission 5,000 for the spread of the Gospel overseas".

  • A Specific Gift – this is often an object rather than money, say a painting or piece of furniture, e.g. "I leave to the Christadelphian Bible Mission the painting that has hung over the lounge fireplace for the past 10 years".

  • A Residuary Gift – this is what is left after all debts, Pecuniary Gifts and Specific Gifts have been met from the estate. It can be given to a single person/organisation, or apportioned to several different people/organisations which you determine, e.g. "I leave the residue of my estate split in equal amounts to my son John Smith, to the Christadelphian Bible Mission and to the Christadelphian Meal-A-Day Fund."

Writing a will with professional advice is also a good way of avoiding payment of taxes on your estate. All charities are currently exempt from paying Inheritance tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax, so a charity benefits from the full value of your gift to them. Further, under current tax legislation, monies left to a charity in your will are taken off before calculating any Inheritance Tax liability on your estate.

Quoting from the Government’s own advice, "There are good reasons to make a will. You can make sure you do not pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary.”

We emphasise again: please take professional advice on these matters. It is a good idea to review and, if necessary, update your will every couple of years to ensure it is still relevant.

If you decide that you would like to leave some of your estate to a charity, it is always helpful to your executors if you include the Registered Charity Number to allow the executor to find the latest registered address. The Registered Charity Number for CBM is 1020558.