We all hope that we will leave behind a legacy of good deeds after we die but too often life gets in the way and we never achieve as much as we would like or hope. Our favourite musicians leave behind a legacy through their music but for most of us, leaving a legacy in your will to a charity that does work you love is the best way to ensure your good intentions live on long after you do.
When my mother died at the glorious age of 85, one of the last things we did together was to listen to her favourite songs. As we listened to ‘Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole she whispered it was “magic” – one of the last words she said. It’s a happy memory that I will always treasure; the power of music to communicate where words are no longer possible.
After she died we discovered that she hadn’t signed her will and so her desire to leave a small donation to her favourite charity became difficult. Fortunately my father inherited her estate and we included with his will a ‘letter of wishes’ remembering the charities that they both supported throughout their lives. The letter is not legally binding but it can act as a guide for executors to recognise your wishes without having to see a solicitor to change an existing will.
Despite this salutary lesson it took me another 18 months to make a will of my own. I hope it will be a long time before it comes into effect and I have no idea how much (if any) money will be left by then but I wanted to be sure that, as well as ensuring my daughter is well provided for, some of the causes I feel passionately about will benefit too. My final act of trying to make the world a better place – my legacy.
It’s never too late (and rarely too early) to make a will and it’s very easy to do. Most charities will provide the wording you need to include them – usually name, address and charity number will suffice.
Like so many charities, legacies are the lifeblood of Help Musicians UK. Nearly half the money we receive each year is given to us through gifts in wills. The legacies themselves are diverse. Some people leave us a small percentage of what is left after their family and friends have been remembered; some donate a specific sum; some donate a house or a piano or some may leave us royalties for music or books they created in their lifetimes. Some are small, some are huge – they all matter very much.
Occasionally awards are set up in memory of a musician or music lover using money from their estate. Peter Whittingham loved the music of Gershwin, Sondheim and Bernstein. After his death his family set up a jazz award in his memory. Now in its 25th year, it has become one of the most prestigious Jazz awards in the UK and I’m sure Peter would have been very proud to see what he left behind.
Whatever the size of the legacy, the impact can be huge. Whether it helps us to fund a whole new area of work, like services for musicians with hearing loss, or provides a visit to an elderly musician who misses that connection to the world of music – it all matters very much.
If you would like more information about leaving a gift in your will to Help Musicians UK visit our Support our Work pages or please contact us on 020 7239 9108.