Leave a legacy

Legacies to the Mills Section

Remembering the Mills Section of the SPAB in your will can be a simple and effective way of supporting the conservation of British wind and watermills.

William Morris, the SPAB Founder, said "We are only trustees for those that come after us". This remains the Society's reason for existing. It is the way that you can continue supporting us well into the future.

If you remember the Mills Section in your will you can help our work far more dramatically than you may have been able to do during your lifetime.

Making a will is cheaper and easier than people often think. Below we provide a guide to the different types of will.

It is extremely helpful for us to know when people have been kind enough to remember the Mills Section of the SPAB in their wills, or are actively intending to do so shortly. A short note to that effect addressed to the Secretary is all that is necessary.

How your help can make a difference

"We are only trustees for those that come after us."
William Morris at the SPAB AGM in July 1889

When the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings set up the Mills Section some 75 years ago, it realised those very special qualities of both wind and watermills which give them such an important place in the historical fabric of our country. These fragile qualities are under constant threat. Widespread public support for our past has simply created different pressures. The work of the Mills Section seems to grow constantly and become more urgent.

Rather than concentrate our efforts on a small number of mills we spread our advice and help as widely as we can. We do this through our mill casework, our technical advice, our publications, and our campaigning.

Supporting the Mills Section through a legacy is a powerful way to help slow down the constant erosion of our mill heritage. We rely on the generous help of our members and supporters. By leaving a legacy to the SPAB for the Mills Section you can become a benefactor of mills at a level probably far greater than you could afford during your lifetime.

Why make a will?

Most Mills Section members and supporters have probably already made a will. They are in a minority in the country as a whole. Few people make a will and even fewer leave money to any charity, even though for many there may be tax advantages in doing so.

If you haven't made a will it is important to consider doing so even if you are still quite young. A will ensures that your money goes where you want. If you have no surviving relatives and have not made a will the State takes the lot. You may also be worth rather more than you thought, particularly if you own a house or flat.

Keeping your will up to date is essential

Your family circumstances may change, Government tax policy alters, and your own priorities and preferences may well develop. If you have left what is known as a "pecuniary legacy", a stated sum of money, this can be so eroded by inflation that its value is much less than you intended.

Using a solicitor

A solicitor will help you choose the best wording of your will and should help avoid the sort of ambiguities and lack of clarity that can make some wills hard to understand when the time comes. This can result in expensive legal disputes, and your real intentions may not be met.

A solicitor will also guide you so that you do not leave money to meet some need that may seem very pressing at the time you draw up the will, but which may have been overtaken by events many years later when the will comes into effect.

How to leave money or property to the Mills Section of the SPAB

Your solicitor will advise you, but the main types of legacy are: a "pecuniary legacy" or a "residuary legacy". Residuary legacies to the SPAB for the Mills Section are the most effective way to continue your support.

  1. A pecuniary legacy is one that mentions a specific sum, for example, "I leave the SPAB the sum of £1,000 for the Mills Section . . .". Although we welcome all forms of legacy, the drawback with a pecuniary legacy is that inflation can eat away at its value. What was once a generous amount may shrink to something much more modest than you intended.
  2. A residuary legacy is one that leaves the Mills Section a share of the remaining estate once other commitments have been met. For example, "I leave the SPAB one quarter of the residue of my estate, for the Mills Section . . .". Residuary legacies tend to offer the greatest benefits to the Society, not least because they are simple and tax efficient. They also automatically take into account increases in the value of a person's estate. Residuary legacies have been especially important in supporting the SPAB in the last 15 years.
  3. A reversionary legacy allows the surviving partner to carry on using the family house or other asset, with the capital passing to the SPAB for the Mills Section on their death.

Other types of legacy

Some members have left historic wind or watermills to the Mills Section in the past. Before planning to do so it really is essential that you discuss this with the SPAB first, as we may not always be able to accept such a legacy, particularly if you wish to attach certain conditions to it. Property law, which changes constantly, makes it difficult for the Mills Section to guarantee the long term care of a building left to it. Badly worded wills or those which impose restrictive obligations on the SPAB can lead to disputes, high legal costs, and uncertainty. Unfortunately we have direct experience of this. The Mills Section will also need the flexibility to sell buildings if necessary.

Occasionally the Mills Section receives money for a stated specific purpose, and our Mills Repair Fund was started in this way. It is much more helpful to the Mills Section to receive legacies which the Committee can use at its discretion, but we are happy to discuss the possibility of something linked to an activity or purpose, such as the preservation or repair of a particular mill or mills. We urge you most strongly to talk this over with us before you write your will to make sure the money goes where you really want.

Income or capital?

Under charity rules the SPAB must treat legacies as income, all of which has to be spent promptly, unless the will specifically says otherwise. Although we would like a steady flow of legacies to help fund our normal day-to-day work, if you are kind enough to leave us a large amount it may be worth considering ways in which it could be added to our reserves. If you want to restrict the use of the capital, leaving us the use of the income, please discuss this both with us and with your solicitor when drawing up or amending your will. It would be especially helpful if the wording of any large legacy gave the SPAB some discretion in the matter.

If you would like to discuss a legacy to the Mills Section or the Society, please contact:
The Director, SPAB, 37 Spital Square, London E1 6DY
or telephone 020 7377 1644