GEORGE MICHAEL’S GRAVE IS IN A PRIVATE PART OF THE CEMETERY WHICH IS NOT ACCESSIBLE TO VISITORS.

Legacies & donations

A bequest is a very effective way of making a gift to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust. It may enable you to make a contribution of a size and significance which may not be possible during your lifetime

If you decide to make a bequest for the general benefit of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, this will be used where the needs and opportunities are greatest. On the other hand, you may wish to make a bequest to the Friends for a specific purpose. For instance you may want to create a fund to help develop our archives, to support our publications programme, or to restore more monuments. Our Chief Executive, Dr Ian Dungavell, would be happy to talk to you at any time about bequests for specific or general purposes. Please telephone him on 020 8340 1834.

Whatever their size, legacies are vital to us. They will go either to a worthwhile and capital project of long-term benefit or to build up a fund, the interest from which can be used to fund our activities in the future as revenues from burial sales decline.

And no matter how small the gift you make through your legacy, it will go towards preserving the fragile heritage of Highgate Cemetery. Your support will be a source of great encouragement to us.

The benefits of making a Will

There are overwhelming benefits in making a Will even if you believe your financial affairs are straightforward. Your will does far more than just allocate your estate between beneficiaries. Making a will gives you the peace of mind that you have properly provided for your family's future. If you have pets or dependent children, you can make arrangements in your Will for them to be looked after. It avoids confusion and potential arguments among your family and friends. Your will is also an extremely practical way to make your hopes and dreams - such as a secure long term future for Highgate Cemetery - take one step closer to becoming reality.

Your Will should name a trusted friend, family friend or solicitor as Executor to look after your affairs and make sure everything is carried out as you would wish.

What happens if you don't have a will?

If you don't make a Will, the law of intestacy decides how your estate will be distributed - perhaps quite differently from what you would have intended. Only immediate family can inherit so any friends, partners or favourite causes you would like to remember will receive nothing from your estate. If no relatives can be found, your entire estate goes to the Government; hardly what you would have wanted!

Your Will is your opportunity to leave exactly what you choose to whom you choose. Even if you think you don't have much to leave, it is much better to make a Will.

I know I ought to leave a Will, but isn't it very complicated and expensive?

With a little prior planning, making a Will can be quite easy. And it costs a fraction of what it would cost your family to sort out your affairs if you die without one. If you do not have a solicitor, ask a friend to recommend one, or check the Law Society's guide to choosing and using a solicitor.

If you are determined to do it yourself, you should consult a book on the subject, or see the Which? report on wills.

Making and changing your will - easy steps

1. Make a list of your assets
Include your home and its contents, your car, bank and building society accounts, any other investments, life insurance, any valuable antiques, jewellery or other items. It is helpful to estimate their value too. Make a note of any special items you wish to leave to particular people and make sure that they can be clearly identified from your description.

2. Make a list of your debts
Your mortgage or outstanding loans, overdrafts, bills and any other debts will have to be repaid out of your estate before any bequests can be made.

3. Decide who you want to benefit from your estate
Your estate is your assets less your debts. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how much they have to leave. Make a list of all the people and organisations you wish to remember, along with their addresses. Think about what you would like to leave to each of them.

The balance (or residue) is what is left of your estate after all your specific bequests have been distributed and all costs, including Inheritance Tax, have been paid. Most people look after their family and friends first, then leave the residue (or a share of it) to a charity such as the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust. This is the type of legacy that helps us most because the value of your intended gift does not get eaten away by inflation.

Liability to Inheritance Tax depends on the value of your estate and the Inheritance Tax threshold, which is reviewed every year in the Budget. All legacies to charity are free of tax, so a legacy to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust could help to reduce the tax burden on your estate. We recommend you talk to your solicitor for more details.

4. Make an appointment with your solicitor
It is possible to draw up a Will on your own, or using a pre-printed form but we don't recommend this because it can be difficult to draft a Will that is clear, unambiguous and legally correct. A solicitor will make sure that your Will is valid and that it accurately reflects your wishes.

5. Relax and enjoy life
When you have written your Will, you can relax in the knowledge that you have done everything possible to plan for the future and look after all those you care about. Remember to keep your Will in a safe place and tell the Executor where it is. If you need any further information, we'll be glad to help - please feel free to contact us.

Changing your will

If you get married or re-married, any Will you previously made will automatically become invalid and you should make a new one. You might also wish to make a new Will if there is a significant change in your circumstances - for example, if you get divorced or if your fortunes change.

Making minor changes to your Will

You should review your Will regularly to make sure that it still accurately reflects your wishes. You cannot just change your Will by making informal hand-written or typed amendments to it as this could invalidate the whole Will. Such changes need to be made using a "codicil" - a formal addition to your existing Will that should be drawn up by your solicitor. The cost will be significantly less than having a new Will written.

If you are happy with your existing Will but would like to leave something to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, making a codicil is an easy and cheap way to achieve this.

Legacies to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust

If you would like to leave a legacy to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, your solicitor might like to use the preferred wording:
"I give to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust of Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ,  Registered Charity number 1058392.

Either [x]% of the residue of my estate absolutely

Or the sum of £ [y]

and I direct that:

(i) the proceeds shall be used as the trustees of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust shall see fit

(ii) the receipt of the Financial Trustee or other proper Officer of the said Trust shall be a full and sufficient discharge for the same."

Donations in memory

You may like your friends to remember you with donations to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust instead of flowers at your funeral. The following wording included in your will or in instructions to your Executor will ensure your wishes are met:
"I request my Executor to ensure that instead of flowers at my funeral, donations are made to the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust of Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ,  Registered Charity number 1058392."