Legacies

Remembering the Society in your will can be a simple and effective way of supporting British building conservation.
 
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.
 
Making a will is cheaper and easier than people often think.  Below here we have a very quick guide to the different types of will.
 
If you remember the Society in your will you can help our work far more dramatically than you may have been able to do during your lifetime.
 
It is extremely helpful for us to know when people have been kind enough to remember the SPAB in their wills, or are actively intending to do so shortly.
 

How your help can make a difference

"We are only trustees for those that come after us."
William Morris at the SPAB AGM July 1889
 
An SPAB Scholar learning about traditional lime plaster workWhen the founders of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings chose the word 'Protection' they had a farsighted view of where we could really make a difference. A century later we continue to try to protect those very special qualities that give historic buildings timeless beauty and a genuine identity. These fragile qualities are under constant threat. Widespread public support for our past has simply created different pressures. The work of the SPAB seems to grow constantly and become more urgent.
 
Thousands of old buildings, from the simplest to the grandest, have benefited from the Society's unrivalled protective help. Our practical advice and information, based on expertise, has been decisive time and again. Our unique record of training young architects, craftsmen and others in the proper care of old buildings offers continuing hope for the future. Their knowledge and skills will help avoid some of the mistakes of today.
 
Rather than concentrate our efforts on owning a small number of buildings we spread our advice and help as widely as we can. We do this through our listed building casework, our technical advice, our publications, our campaigning and our education.
 
Supporting the SPAB through a legacy is a powerful way to help slow down the constant erosion of our extraordinary architectural heritage. We rely on the generous help of our members and supporters. Without legacies we would rapidly have to reduce our activities. By leaving a legacy to the SPAB you can become an outstanding benefactor at a level probably far greater than you could afford during your lifetime.
 

Why make a Will?

Most SPAB 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 SPAB

Your solicitor will advise you, but the main types of legacy are: a 'pecuniary legacy' (a stated sum of money) or a 'residuary legacy' (a share of the estate after you have remembered family and friends).
 
Residuary legacies are the most effective way to continue your support for the SPAB.
 
a) A pecuniary legacy is one that mentions a specific sum, for example, "I leave the SPAB the sum of £1,000…" Although we welcome all forms of legacy, the drawback with pecuniary ones is that inflation can eat away at their value. What was once a generous amount may shrink to something much more modest than you intended.
 
b) A residuary legacy is one that leaves the SPAB 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…" 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 specially important in supporting the SPAB in the last 15 years.
 
c) A reversionary legacy allows the surviving partner to carry on using the family house or other asset, with the capital passing to the SPAB on their death.
 

Other types of legacy

 
Some members have left historic buildings to the Society in the past. Before planning to do so it really is essential that you discuss this with the Society 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 Society 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 Society will also need the flexibility to sell buildings if necessary.
 
Occasionally the Society receives money for a stated specific purpose, and most of our Specific Funds started this way. It is much more helpful to the Society to receive legacies for our General Purposes which the Committee can use at its discretion, but we are happy to discuss the possibility of something linked to an activity or purpose, for example, the SPAB Scholarship, William Morris Craft Fellowship, or Mills Section. 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 Society must treat legacies as income, all of which has to be spent promptly, unless the will specifically says otherwise. Though we do need 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 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 your solicitor when drawing up or amending your will. It would be specially helpful if the wording of any large legacy gave the Society some discretion in the matter.
 
If you would like to discuss a legacy to the Society, please contact The Secretary, SPAB, 37 Spital Square, London E1 6DY or telephone 020 7377 1644.