I have direct debits for the causes I care about, and like lots of people across the UK, I think about where my money could help the most. One of the organisations I’m passionate about is the British Youth Council. I gained so much valuable confidence and experience by being on the trustee board over a decade ago, and I’ve always wanted to give back in some way.
During Coronavirus, people’s thoughts also turned to death. According to Farewill, there has been a 267% rise in people making wills from home during the crisis.
My mind was already focussed on loss, as sadly my husband died suddenly in 2018. He died without a will, which caused extra problems. After coming through the worst of the grief I decided I was going to do more to help other people prepare better for death.
Most people in the UK do not have a will – some estimates put it at 60%. The older you get, the more likely you are to have got round to it. But I’m on a mission to change that and encourage younger people to think about their wills.
So the first step I took was sorting my own will out in 2020, and in it I left a gift to the British Youth Council. I felt really proud to put the organisation down for what is called a pecuniary gift, which means that the British Youth Council will receive a specific sum of money, rather than a percentage of the money I leave behind. You can do it as a percentage if you prefer. I now have the title of being the first known British Youth Council alumnus to have left a gift in their will!
This process is called ‘legacy giving’ and is estimated to be worth £2.2bn a year to UK charities. It can be an incredibly useful stream of income, because organisations can model for the long term future when they know they have legacy income. However, my experience of working in the charity sector in my career, most people choose to give to local charities or the very large ones. Mid-size and national organisations can often miss out because it’s hard to attract legacy giving, and youth organisations may be not the most easy place to have conversations about death.
Dealing with death is something that many young people have to go through. A parent of children under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK; so we need to change how we talk about death as a society.
To fulfil my new mission, my second step was to set up a new type of online will writing service – I’ve called it Lemons.Life and I’ve launched it this year to target a younger age group to do their will. A traditional will for an older person might contain information on what they wanted to do with their property or jewellery, but actually younger people are starting to consider their ‘digital afterlife’ as well as their physical possessions. What would you want your family to do with your Facebook or all the photos you have online?
And, in the end the most important thing to consider is what you would like to have happen to your body and what happens at your funeral. These can seem like really difficult questions and they are. That’s why I hadn’t done my will before now.
For most people, there is plenty of time to change your mind, and update your will throughout life, but I hope that one day we all get into the habit of writing a will. I want it to become normal and easy – and I also would love to see charities like the British Youth Council to be able to open up a new stream of long term funding so that they can ensure they are able to empower young people in the next 75 years.