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FAQs and Glossary

What do you know about Legacies?

Frequently Asked Questions

RCS England is a charity and relies on gifts left in Wills to the College. Over the last decade, bequests have totalled in excess of £5 million and their impact is considerable, funding the full spectrum of our activities. We ask you to consider whether you would like to “Make Surgery your Legacy” and here we answer the most common questions about leaving a gift to RCS England in your Will.

Q. What is a legacy?
A. When you choose to state in your Will to leave a particular asset(s) to a person, organisation or charity.

Q. Why does RCS England need gifts left in Wills?
A. We rely on gifts in Wills to continue our vital work in innovative surgical research, groundbreaking policy and cutting-edge learning initiatives, ensuring that surgeons and the care they provide are the best in the world.

Q. Do I have to leave a large amount?
A. No, it is a common myth that you have to leave a large amount of money to charity in your Will. In fact, even a small donation can make a huge difference.

Q. Will my family or friends miss out if I leave a gift to charity?
A. No, family and friends always come first. However, if, after taking care of them, you have even a small amount left, a gift to RCS England in your Will is the ultimate way to pass on something wonderful for future generations of surgeons and patients.

Q. Do I need to pay tax on gifts left to RCS England?
A. No, gifts left to charity in your Will are tax-free.

Q. How can I reduce inheritance tax by leaving a gift to charity?
A. If you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity in your Will then the overall amount of inheritance tax you have to pay will reduce from 40% to 36%. To find out other ways gifting can reduce inheritance tax, speak to your solicitor or financial advisor.

Q. How do I update my Will to include RCS England?
A. There are two options for changing your Will:

  • Adding a codicil to the Will
  • Making a brand new Will.

A codicil allows minor alterations to be made to a Will. While there is no limit to the number of codicils that can be added to a Will, they still need to be witnessed and signed in the same manner as Wills. If you have more than one or two minor changes, it is generally recommended that you write a new Will.

Q. Do I need to tell RCS England that I'm leaving them a gift in my Will?
A. No, it is completely up to you if you tell us or not. Many people prefer not to tell their chosen charities that they have left them a gift in their Will. However, informing us of your intention offers us vital assistance with our long-term financial planning and allows time to make sure that any wishes you have can be fully implemented long into the future.

Q. Can I leave gifts to more than one charity?
A. Yes, you can leave gifts to more than one charity. In fact, it is common for people to leave a gift to three different charities in their Will.

Q. Can I only leave money to RCS England?
A. No, there are three main different types of gifts you can leave to charity:

  • A pecuniary legacy is a fixed sum of money. You can choose to leave any amount but inflation will reduce its value so you may wish to review the gift from time to time.
  • A residuary legacy is a percentage of your estate (what is left after other specified gifts, costs, and tax) and it keeps pace with inflation.
  • A specific legacy is a gift of a particular item such as property, shares or a surgical instrument collection.

Q. Can I decide how my gift is used by the College?
A. Yes, but please discuss this with us first. While you are free to allocate your bequest to any area of RCS England’s work, if you decide to make a restricted contribution to an individual project or area of support, we want to give you assurance that we can honour your wishes. Ultimately, we want to understand what you would like your gift to achieve.

Q. Do you offer a Free Will Writing service?
A. Yes, RCS England is partnered with Bequeathed. This offers our supporters a free, fully advised Will from an accredited legal professional. It takes three simple steps and can be done from the comfort of your own home.

  1. Complete the online interview at
  2. Have a 30-minute telephone/video appointment with a legal firm to ensure the Will fully caters for your needs.
  3. Receive your Will in the post, sign it, have it witnessed and return it. They will check it has been executed correctly and store it securely for free.

Q. I have another question not listed here - where can I get help?
A. No problem, just get in touch with our Legacy Manager and they will do their best to answer any questions you have about leaving a gift to The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Email or call 020 7869 6086


The world of legacies may present you with some unfamiliar legal or industry terms. See below laid out the definitions of some of these.

A person responsible for dealing with an estate.

Any property, money and belongings you own.

A loved one, charity or organisation who is named in your Will as the recipient of a gift.

A gift made in a Will (not including property).

A document adding to, or altering, an existing Will. A codicil is used where only a minor change is needed. This will appear as an appendix and will need to be signed, dated and kept with the original Will.

Conditional legacy:
A gift conditional upon a certain event taking place. E.g., “If my husband / wife predeceases me”

A person or organisation named in your Will to be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will following your death. You can have up to four executors, and they can be a solicitor, trust company, bank, charity or a friend or family member and they can also be a beneficiary.

Person(s) appointed under the terms of a Will to have physical custody of any minor child(ren).

Inheritance Tax (IHT):
A tax set by the government which may be payable on death depending on the value of the estate and intended beneficiaries. Learn more about how a gift in your Will to charity can lower the amount of IHT you pay by speaking to your solicitor or financial advisor. 

To have died without having made a valid Will.

Lay executor:
A non-professionally qualified executor for example an individual related to the deceased (see executor above).

A gift in your Will (including property).

Someone who has left a legacy in their Will.

Financial obligations (such as debts or tax bills) which may need to be settled by your estate after your death.

Life interest:
Right to enjoy property, or income from investments, until death.

Life tenant:
A person entitled to a life interest.

Mirror wills:
Nearly identical wills made by married couples that reflect one-another.

Pecuniary legacy:
A bequest of a specific amount. E.g., “£1000”

Someone who has left a legacy in their Will.

The legal process whereby a Will is “proved” in a court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased. Once probate is granted (known as Confirmation in Scotland) the executor can distribute the proceeds from the deceased’s estate to the beneficiaries.

Everything that is left of your estate after all the liabilities, tax, costs and legacies have been paid.

Residuary legacy:
A percentage of an estate (what is left after other specified gifts, costs, and tax). An advantage of a residuary legacy is that it does not lose value over time.

Specific legacy:
A gift of a specific item, such as property, antiques, jewellery and shares.

The person who has made the Will.

If your Will sets up a trust, the trustees are the people or organisations named in your Will, to manage this trust according to its terms. They will usually make decisions for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries, once the administration of the rest of your estate has been completed. Their role is like the Executors of your estate, and often, at least initially, they will be your Executors.

A legal document where a person states what they want to happen with their estate following their death.

You need the presence of two people when you sign your Will, who act as witnesses who are not family, beneficiaries or residing at the same address as you.

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