How legacies can benefit the Society

Specific purposes legacies are gifts that reflect the particular interests and concerns of a Fellow. The gifts listed above are examples, and you could add to an existing specific fund. If you wish to make your own specific bequest, the Society will honour your wishes. However, none of us can forecast precisely how things will change (the only certainty being that they will!) and we ask that you allow the Society flexibility should circumstances alter (as wise benefactors did for many of the funds listed). The five overarching fund categories for the existing specific purposes legacies cover the range of activities for which the Society seeks funding at this time, and are expected to cover many of the alternative uses to which a bequest could be put, should its specific purpose become unfeasible. The General Purposes Fund can support anything.

If you are considering such a gift in your will, the Treasurer will be happy to discuss the bequest with you. These discussions, which will be strictly private and confidential, would ensure that:

  • the Society understands your wishes;
  • any specific bequest you propose is feasible;
  • plans can be made for your generosity to be recognised.

If you are able to strengthen the Society's endowment for its daily and sustaining activities, we suggest a legacy to the General Purposes Fund. This will benefit the Society by:

  • developing the meetings programme;
  • disseminating news about our sciences, including scientific results;
  • representing our sciences in government and science policy circles;
  • supporting the Fellowship;
  • keeping up the Society's collections and apartments.

Making your legacy for the future

You can include a legacy to the Society in your will at the time you draw it up. If you already have a will, you can add a simple pecuniary bequest by way of a codicil. 

Gifts to the Society, which is a registered charity, may reduce the liability of your estate to inheritance tax in the UK and may be treated favourably in other countries.

The five standard types of legacy in English law are described below.

  • The reversionary legacy This attractive option provides for your family first and then benefits the Society. You leave your assets to trustees so that the beneficiaries enjoy them during their lifetimes, with the whole or a portion reverting to the Society on their death.
  • The residuary legacy This involves leaving all or part of the net residue of your estate to the Society after debts, fees and other donations have been met. You do not have to worry about the sum nor about inflation at the time you draw up the will.
  • The conditional legacy This provides for the eventuality that, should one of your beneficiaries not survive you, that part of your estate would be left to the Society.
  • The pecuniary legacy This simple form of legacy leaves a specific sum to the Society. Bear in mind that inflation during your lifetime erodes the value of the sum.
  • The specific or non-pecuniary legacy You can leave specific possessions to the Society, including property, stocks and shares, antiques or the like. This would be particularly appropriate if you have property of scientific relevance such as antique instruments, rare books, meteorites, etc, that the Society can consider for retention in its collections or sale.

Formula for inclusion in a will

I give to the Royal Astronomical Society in London, registered charity number 226545, [a certain bequest] for the general purposes of the Society [or for the Research and Grants Fund, or the Education Fund, or the Benevolent Fund, or the Library Fund or the Lectures and Awards Fund, to be used for such and such a purpose, or for such other purpose as the Council of the Society shall decide] and declare that the receipt of the Treasurer for the time being of the said Society shall be sufficient discharge to my executors.