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Did you know that you can set up your own charity in your will as well as in your lifetime?

We all know that making a will is important. It may be something we avoid or put off but deciding who deals with our affairs after death, who takes care of minor children and ultimately who benefits from our estates are all decisions which should be properly recorded.

Without a valid will, the law intervenes to determine the outcome which may not suit everyone’s circumstances.

For many, the question of who they want to leave their estate to is easy and often this is their spouse, children or grandchildren. However, this is not a possibility for everyone. Perhaps they are widowed or never married, they may not have children or maybe their offspring are financially sound and receiving an inheritance will only add to their own tax issues. Of course, they may simply not wish to benefit their immediate family.

For these people, the options seem limited. They could favour remote family members, friends or existing charities, but in reality, the possibilities are far from limited.

By creating a charitable trust, your estate, or a part of it, could then be used after your death to create and run a charity in your name.

How to set up a charitable trust

To qualify as a charity in England and Wales, a cause must fall into one of the 13 descriptions of charitable purposes set out in the Charities Act 2011 which include advancement of education, religion, health, community development, arts, culture, heritage, science, amateur sport, human rights, environmental protection, animal welfare, public services, relief of poverty and those in need due to age, ill-health, disability or another disadvantage.

Your chosen cause must then pass the public benefit test to be recognised as a charity. Essentially, all charities should benefit the general public or a sufficient section of it.

Once established, the chosen trustees of the charity will run it and make decisions about how it operates. These people could be family and friends, professionals or a mixture of the two but trustees can often find the role very rewarding and feel that they are carrying out a project that was important to you. The trustees do not have to act for their whole lifetime and it is normal for trustees to retire and appoint others to take over the office in their place. This is particularly true with charitable trusts as they can run indefinitely. Furthermore, there are huge tax benefits afforded to projects with charitable status.

The ongoing nature of a venture like this can mean future generations have a sense of pride that someone in their family or social sphere did something different to help others or promote a cause they felt passionate about. It can also provide an outlet for people struggling with the loss of a loved one to channel their focus into furthering that person’s wishes or issues which affected them.

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