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Remembering the Society in your Will: A message from the President, Professor John Zarnecki


J Zarnecki thumbI hope you will agree that for most of us, it has been, and still is, an enormous privilege to work in the fields of Astronomy and Geophysics. And I think that also most would agree that the Society has done an enormous amount to support our fields, either through its publishing activities, the regular scientific monthly meetings, its increasing work in the field of education and outreach, and through its developing work in representing our sciences to government and other decision makers in the UK and indeed further afield. Add to this its heritage responsibilities, represented by the library and the astronomical artefacts that it owns and it becomes clear that the Society plays a pivotal role in our fields.

We are particularly proud that, as a result of recent challenging times for public funding, the Society has stepped in to alleviate, in a modest way, some gaps of funding by providing 3-year research fellowships (the 'RAS Research Fellowships' and the 'Sir Norman Lockyer Fellowship') and conference/travel grants. And following the recent result of the EU Referendum, the Society has also been active, in collaboration with other professional societies, to ensure that our interests are taken into account in these testing times. Finally, on the world level, the Society works for the development of astronomy and geophysics globally and represents British interests in the International Astronomical Union and International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (the latter in cooperation with other learned societies).


However, we are limited in our activities by the resources available to us. We could do so much more with even a modest increase in our funding. I hope therefore that you might be in a position to help the Society which is at the heart of our community. Following the precedent set by my recent predecessors as President, I'd like to point out that a very simple and effective way to do that is to remember the Society in your will? The Society is a charity and so any bequest is free of inheritance tax in the United Kingdom. Any donation, small or large, can have an impact. Your gift would find an immediate use and would make an impression.


I thank you in advance.


Prof. John Zarnecki
President, Royal Astronomical Society

August 2016



Securing the future

The Council has determined that the Society's priorities for its funds shall be:

  • to make awards and grants, especially for purposes and to people not usually in the scope of the grants made by the research councils;
  • to develop outreach activities in astronomy and geophysics, and to encourage an interest in them, particularly in young people;
  • to help needy astronomers and geophysicists to maintain contact with science, and even to help those near to them;
  • to maintain a library of record, and archives;
  • to recognize distinguished scientists in an appropriate and forward-looking way;
  • to support its general activities including the meetings programme.

To better serve these priorities, the Society has consolidated its funds into six overarching fund groups, to direct them into areas addressing modern needs. These funds (listed in detail elsewhere) are:

  • Research and Grants Fund
  • Education Fund
  • Benevolent Fund
  • Library Fund
  • Lectures and Awards Fund
  • General Purposes Fund.

Most urgently, the better to secure the future, the Society needs to strengthen in particular the endowments for research, grants and education, to encourage and offer opportunities to all who are or might be interested in our sciences.


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. If you are under English law, you can use a codicil form available for download or from the RAS offices.

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.


Codicil form

If you have already made your will but would like simply and without fuss to add a bequest to the Society, please do so using the pdfCodicil Form, also available from the RAS offices, attaching it to the original of the will. Any codicil must be signed and witnessed. If, once it is signed, you change your mind, you can make an additional codicil, or revoke this one.