Why a gift in your Will could be the greatest gift of all

Some say the greatest gift of all is the gift of life. By leaving a gift in your Will to the RNLI, you’ll give so many people a second chance at life – all while protecting our crews at sea.  

Hastings RNLI’s Shannon class all-weather lifeboat Richard and Caroline Colton 13-28 in extremely rough seas during Storm Ciara

Photo: RNLI/Henry Doe

A gift in your Will is their protection at sea

Make your greatest gift a lifesaving legacy

As a charity, the RNLI relies on the generosity and kindness of people like you to save lives at sea.

The first ever legacy left to the RNLI was in 1825. John Henry Hecker of Finsbury Square, London, left an incredibly generous gift of £1,000 - worth almost £96,000 today. It would’ve been used wherever it was needed most, and it was enough to fund around seven lifeboats.

Today, over 90% of the RNLI’s income is from kind donations and, in 2020, legacies made up a staggering 68% of our income.

That means 6 in 10 lifeboat launches are only possible thanks to the gifts kind supporters like you leave to the RNLI in their Will. These greatest gifts keep our charity afloat, quite literally, and we couldn’t save lives without them - without you.

Your gift will be used wherever the need is greatest. It could help maintain and build our lifeboats and stations, fund the kit that protects our lifesavers from the elements, or provide the training they rely on to bring those they rescue, and each other, safely home. You can even leave your gift to a specific lifeboat station or area of the RNLI’s lifesaving work.

It’s the thought that counts

But you have to be wealthy to leave a gift to a charity in your Will, right? Wrong. Every gift is relative to personal means. And every gift helps to save lives. All we ask is, after you have taken care of your loved ones, that you kindly consider whether you’re able to leave a gift to the RNLI in your Will

We’ve gratefully received £330 from the sale proceeds of china ornaments and collectables, and £1,000 from someone who never needed the RNLI’s services but always visited the local lifeboat station when they were at the coast.

Over the years, we’ve had a few surprising gifts from generous donors, including a set of gold teeth, a pig farm and a 100-year-old bottle of cognac.

Hastings lifeboat crew standing outside the lifeboat station in their crew kit in front of their Shannon class all-weather lifeboat on its launch and recovery system next to the Ferrari that funded it - one of two Ferraris businessman Richard Colton kindly left to the RNLI in his Will

Photo: RNLI/KT Bruce

Hastings lifeboat crew standing proudly in front of their Shannon class all-weather lifeboat Richard and Caroline Colton and next to the Ferrari that funded it – one of two Ferraris businessman Richard Colton kindly left to the RNLI in his Will

‘Ferrari of the seas’

The most valuable gift ever left to the RNLI were two rare Ferraris owned by Northamptonshire businessman Richard Colton, who passed away in March 2015 at the age of 82.

Aside from his distinguished career in footwear distribution, Richard collected and actively restored sensational classic cars for 40 years. 

The Ferraris were sold at auction in October 2015, raising a phenomenal sum for the RNLI. This money funded two Shannon class all-weather lifeboats and their launch and recovery systems, one of which was named after Richard Colton and his late wife Caroline - something Richard had hoped for. And the lifeboat’s launch and recovery system was named Richard and Mark Colton after Richard’s late son.

Richard Colton's godson Charles Denton said his godfather would have been ‘amazed at how much money was raised’ and described the revolutionary new lifeboat as the ‘Ferrari of the seas’.

He said Richard ‘loved technology’ and would have thought the new lifeboats were ‘absolutely wonderful’.

Richard’s legacy saves Hastings lifeboat crew

Richard and Caroline Colton 13-28 arrived at Hastings Lifeboat Station in October 2018. And in February 2020, she proved her worth when she saved the lives of her own lifeboat crew in a near-capsize during Storm Ciara, the footage of which went viral. 

Hastings lifeboat crew launched in the violent seas to search for a missing person who was thankfully found safe and well ashore. During an aborted attempt to return to shore, a huge wave hit the lifeboat side on, almost capsizing it. But the Shannon’s self-righting technology saved it from disaster. The lifeboat protected her crew by coming straight back upright and brought them safely home, shaken but unharmed. 

‘Gifts in Wills are our protection at sea’

Head and shoulders shot of Hastings Lifeboat Coxswain/Mechanic Andy Doe standing outside the wheelhouse of the station’s Shannon class all-weather lifeboat Richard and Caroline Colton

Photo: RNLI/KT Bruce

Hastings Coxswain/Mechanic Andy Doe who was onboard Richard and Caroline Colton 13-28 when the lifeboat almost capsized in Storm Ciara

‘I think about this shout every time I go to sea,’ says Andy Doe, Coxswain/Mechanic at Hastings Lifeboat Station. ‘It gives me huge confidence in the boat and the crew to know that we can handle whatever the weather throws at us. It goes to show that gifts in Wills, of any size, really are our protection at sea.’

In addition to saving the lives of her own lifeboat crew, Richard and Caroline Colton has launched 36 times and helped 147 people between October 2018 and July 2021.

How would you like to be remembered? 

Not many of us can afford to have a lifeboat named after us when we’re gone, no matter how much we’d love to. But now, by leaving a gift in your Will to the RNLI, you can have your name added to the side of a lifeboat. So every time it launches to the rescue; every time the crew pull someone from the water; and every time they bring those in danger - and each other - safely home; you’ll be right there, saving lives with the crew. 

When you leave a gift to the RNLI in your Will, no matter how much, you will always be remembered. And as an additional gesture of thanks, we will add your name to the side of an all-weather Shannon class lifeboat. It’s our way of saying thank you, and of remembering you and your greatest act of kindness that will save lives for years to come.

When we receive your kind gift, your name will be proudly displayed in the letters and numbers that make up the lifeboat’s decal - its unique identification number which is printed on both sides of the lifeboat. It will appear alongside the names of up to 10,000 kind and generous lifesavers like you who also chose to leave a gift in their Will to the RNLI.  

Your loved ones will have the opportunity to receive updates about your legacy lifeboat so that they too can proudly be a part of your lifesaving legacy.

RNLI engineer applying a decal made up of around 10,000 supporter names to a Shannon class lifeboat

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Your name on the side of an RNLI lifeboat - our way of remembering your greatest gift

Did you know you can write your Will for free?

This October is Free Wills Month, when anyone aged 55 or over can write or update their simple Will completely free of charge with a participating solicitor in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We also offer Free Wills Services all year round where anyone aged 18 or over in the UK and Ireland can write or update their simple Will completely free of charge in a choice of three ways - online, over the phone or face-to-face, depending on your location.

Give the greatest gift of all and always be part of our lifesaving family

Thank you for the incredible support you already give to the RNLI. Together, we are one crew, striving to save every one we can until we reach a world where no one drowns. We’re not there yet, but with your kind support throughout your lifetime, and beyond, we will get ever closer.

If you’d like to find out more about giving the greatest gift of all, during Free Wills Month or at any time of the year, why not get our free guide to gifts in Wills? The pack includes a booklet and a short film telling you everything you need to know about leaving a gift to the RNLI in your Will. You can either download the guide and film or order a printed copy with a DVD by filling in our short online form. 

Thank you.