How to include a gift in your Will

Whether you want to update an existing Will, or you’re planning to write your first Will, leaving a gift to charity is easy to do. An up-to-date Will ensures your wishes for your family and any charities you support will be clearly understood.

Kilmore Quay lifeboat crashes through a large wave

Photo: Nigel Millard

Kilmore Quay Tamar class lifeboat 16-18 Killarney

When you leave a gift to the RNLI in your Will, we promise:

  • We'll answer any questions honestly and quickly.
  • We won't put you under pressure - this is a big decision to make in your own time.
  • Your loved ones come first - we respect what your Will says.
  • We'll use your special gift wisely and effectively.
  • You don't have to tell us your decision - we respect your right to privacy.
  • You can come and see our service first hand - just let us know.
  • We’ll respect your wishes as outlined in your Will.

Dying without a Will can create many problems for those left behind, at an already difficult time. Here are some tips to help you make your Will.

How to get started

You may have a family solicitor you already use. If not, ask a relative or friend to recommend one. Or you can write your Will with our Free Wills Services.

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

Make a new Will or update an existing Will

Before you begin the Will making process, or if you're updating an existing Will, it's 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 you would like to include - after you have looked after your loved ones, we do hope you’ll consider leaving a gift to the RNLI in your Will
  • who your executor(s) will be
  • what kinds of gifts you want to leave the people and charities you care about – items like a house or valuables (called ‘specific’ gifts), or money (which includes both ‘pecuniary’ and ‘residuary’ gifts) 

Free Wills Services

We understand that writing your Will can seem daunting, but we have made it easier to write or update your Will, for free. We’ve teamed up with trusted services that allow you and your partner to write or update your Wills for free online, over the phone or face-to-face. You don’t have to include a gift to the RNLI to take part – though we hope you’ll consider doing so after providing for your loved ones.

Find out how to make your Will for free.

Common questions

Not at all. Many of our lifeboats are paid for by a gift, or a number of smaller gifts, that people leave in their Will. But gifts in Wills also pay for lots of other things too - crew kit, lifeguard training and the fuel that keeps our lifeboats running. So whatever the size of your gift - large or small - you can be sure we will use it to help save lives.

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.


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.

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. 

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

Your solicitor will be able to explain this in more detail.

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

We promise to use your gift wisely and effectively. Six out of ten RNLI rescues at sea are paid for by gifts in Wills. They pay to keep our lifeboat crews safe – 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.

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. Your loved ones come first – we respect that and won’t try to change it.

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.

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

If you want your gift to be spent in an area that’s special to you, we’ll arrange it. For example, if a particular region or service has a special significance for you, we are more than happy to discuss the different options available.

You don’t have to tell us what you decide – we respect your right to privacy. 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.

Circumstances change; we understand that. If you would like to change your mind about leaving a gift in your Will you can do so.

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 the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland where 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.

If you want to make a change or an 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.

Under no circumstances should you write on an existing Will itself. You should keep any codicil you make with your existing Will but not physically attached to it.

Download a codicil form (PDF 698kB).

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