For many people, leaving a gift in their will is a final opportunity to make a lasting gift to God.
Legacies are vital for our parishes. Church of England parishes receive over 4,000 legacies each year coming to around £60 million - gifts to finance mission projects, maintain beautiful church buildings and grow faithful communities. These gifts make a real difference to the future work of the Church - as regular giving often concentrates on maintaining the existing mission and ministry. However, the recent National Giving Survey, showed that Anglicans were 3 times more likely to leave a gift in their Will to a charity than their church.
God gave us everything we have. Our stewardship beliefs and practices teach us that when we have no further use for our earthly possessions we give back to God. Gifts in Wills are an important part of Christian giving, and leaving a gift to your church is a way to thank God for all the blessings you have received in your lifetime.
If you are interested in leaving a legacy to your church and would like more information, please click here.
If your PCC is looking to encourage legacy giving, you can order a free copy of the PCC Legacy Toolkit here.
Parish Buying have partnered with Farewill, an online Will writing company, in order to provide free Wills. Using Farewill, anyone in your church can write their Will, from home, in as little as 30 minutes - at no charge. There is no obligation for people using the service to leave a gift to a church, and loved ones will - and should - always come first. However, some people will remember their local or favourite church and every gift, great or small, can make a real difference to the mission and ministry of that church for future generations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a legacy?
A Will is a legal document that sets out your wishes regarding the distribution of your wealth and possessions. It is also where you can include a charitable legacy once loved ones have been provided for.
A charitable legacy is a gift of money, property or an item left to an organisation in a Will. This type of giving to charity is commonly referred to as gifts in Wills. Gifts in Wills can be left to parish churches, cathedrals and dioceses and are exempt from inheritance tax.
We have been notified of a legacy, what should we do?
If you have been notified of a legacy, the first thing to do is pray, giving thanks for this generous gift and praying for wisdom as you discuss how to use it.
Guidance on receiving a legacy can be found here.
There are several questions that will need to be asked and thought about: have you been left a specific sum of money or a percentage of the estate, is it a significant amount, are there any restrictions on it? All these questions may alter what you would want to do with a specific legacy.
If you need help at any stage of this process, please do contact Chris Boden, the Stewardship Officer for the Diocese.
Do we have to pay Inheritance Tax?
Charitable legacies are exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT). The Church of England has produced a two page resource explaining what IHT is and how it applies to a legacy left to your PCC here.
Where can we find proof that we are a charity?
All parishes within the Church of England are charities, however many of these do not need to register with the Charity Commission separately because they are too small, in which case they are classified as "Excepted Charities".
In these cases you can get a certificate of through A Church Near You. Go to the link and then search for your church, once you have gone to your church's page, click on the "More Information" tab on the left hand side, and then scroll down the screen. Near the botttom is the option to "Download certificate" for your proof of being an Excepted Chairty.
Do we need to do anything different in our accounts?
This depends on the legacy. Non-endowed legacies should be included as part of the Gross Income for the purposes of Receipts and Payments accounting. Legacies given for the general purposes of the PCC should immediately be credited to the general fund. Unless the donor has restricted the use of the legacy in the Will, it remains unrestricted and may not be restricted by the PCC. All or a part of the legacy may then be designated for a particular purpose but it should not be designated to a ‘Legacy Fund’ with no intention as to its use.
With accruals accounting legacies should be included in the SOFA in accordance with the general principles for the recognition of incoming resources. Where the PCC is aware of an entitlement to a material legacy which for the above reason has not been included in the financial statements, this fact and an estimate of the amount receivable should be disclosed in the notes to the financial statements.
If it is a restricted legacy or an endowment, you may need to set up a new restricted or endowment fund in your accounts.
If it is a large legacy it could mean that your income has increased so that you need to notify the Charity Commission.
If you have any worries or questions, please do contact Chris Boden.
Starting with Legacy Giving
Step 1: Think and Pray about it as a PCC
All things begin with prayer.
As a PCC, spend some time thinking about the legacies you have received over the past few years and remembering those who left them. Why did they leave them? How did you use these legacies? Pray and give thanks for the lives of those who left the gifts, and the wonderful things you have managed to do with them.
Encouraging your congregation to leave a legacy opens up the opportunity to have some important pastoral conversations about aging, death and dying. While these conversations can be filled with the joy of the promise of resurrection, they can also be difficult to have, and we need to recognise this and pray for God's wisdom and comfort. Step 3 offers some resources that will help you with these conversations.
Step 2: Set up and communicate your PCC Legacy policy
Most people will only leave a gift in their Will if they think their church will use it for worthwhile projects, not simply to fund operating costs. A legacy policy allows the PCC to prepare and discuss how they would wish to see a gift used. It can also help to reassure those interested that the PCC has a policy in place.
The Church Legacy team have created a template to help you create your own local church legacy policy.
PCCs should agree a policy on how potential legacy income will be spent, and then communicate it to the congregation. Make sure this is displayed on your church's noticeboard and on your website, and let people know about it via your newsletters and social media.
Step 3: Talk about writing a will and leaving a legacy
The Book of Common Prayer encourages all Christians to leave a Will in preparation for their death, however, talking about death and leaving a legacy can be daunting. One way to do this with your conversation, during a Sunday Service, is to interview one of your congregation about why they have written their Will and what it has meant for them and their faith.
As a Will is a legal document we always recommend seeking professional legal advice. However, it may also help your congregation if you give them some example wording, in order to leave a gift in their Will. The Church of England gives some example wording here. The Church of England also offers free literature to encourage your congregation to write a Will and leave a legacy to your church, which can be found here. There are also customisable leaflets here, which are £1.80 for a pack of 10.
The Church of England has also launched GraveTalk, a cafe space to talk about death, dying and funerals, which you may find helpful, and the Dicoese of Oxford, has put together a resources website DeathLife.
Step 4: Share you stories
If you have been left a legacy make sure that you spread the stories of what you have done with it. This gives your congregation the confidence that their own gifts will be used to help their church and demonstrates the need and impact such gifts can have.
We always love to hear your good news stories of Stewardship, so don't forget to also share them with the Diocese!
Step 5: Say Thank You!
Make sure if you find out that someone has left your church a gift in their Will that you say thank you. It is a simple thing, but makes people feel truly valued.
In Memoriam Gifts
Family and friends often wish to donate a gift to a church in memory of a loved one or friend, perhaps in the form of an item to beautify a church, or for use in worship or church activities. Please use this helpful guide to encourage and receive 'in memoriam' gifts.