Elaine Duggan, 61, lost her husband, Richard, 11 years ago. He was just 45 at the time but had suffered a life-changing brain injury while serving as a rifleman with the Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland two decades earlier.
“I don’t have much, but what I do have is down to SSAFA so when I’m gone I want to do my bit to help SSAFA help others,” she says.
Throughout their married life they relied heavily on SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, for medical support for Richard, emotional support for the couple, and with accommodation for Elaine when her husband was in hospital.
While Elaine is not able to give any financial support to SSAFA at this stage of her life, she has decided that she would like to make a contribution in her will by leaving a gift for SSAFA through a process called Legacy Giving.
Richard’s head injury was so severe that for most of his adult life he was suffering five or six major seizures every day. He and Elaine met at a rehabilitation centre in Hastings, East Sussex, after she also suffered a major head injury.
Richard would often need lengthy treatment in London and SSAFA helped Elaine with accommodation, caseworkers visited Richard regularly, and then the pair moved to a bungalow for disabled ex-service people at the SSAFA-run St Vincent’s Residential Care Home on the Isle of Wight.
After Richard died, Elaine continued to live at St Vincent’s in one of SSAFA’s bungalows on the island and remains there today. “I can’t say enough about SSAFA and I don’t think I will ever be able to,” she says.
“Richard had a hard life but he enjoyed it and it would have been more difficult without SSAFA. Every step of the way, they have helped us. Every time things got tough, they were there for us.”
Leaving money to SSAFA in her will has given her peace of mind that she will be able to say thank you one last time.
It is one of the most financially valuable, but least discussed, areas of fundraising. It has been a common practice in America for decades yet is only just growing in profile in the UK.
Many of those who have chosen to organise their will in this way say that it is a celebration of their life, and the things that have been important to them.
Tegan Jones, SSAFA’s director of fundraising, says: “Including SSAFA in your will is a tremendous way to pay tribute to our Armed Forces community and help those experiencing hardship or distress.
“No matter how large or small your gift to support SSAFA’s work, it will help to make a huge difference in the life of someone who has served our country and their loved ones.”
Dr Helen Smith*, 45, a director of a London-based defence consultancy, has left a gift for SSAFA in her will. She has never been in the military and does not come from a military family but says that the vital work of SSAFA has impressed her so much she felt compelled to do something for the charity.
She says: “It is one of the oldest charities in Britain but may be too discreet for its own good because not many people know of the work it does.
“But that work is incredible: supporting members of all three services, the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force, and, most importantly, supporting the families of those who have served as well.
“The process of leaving a gift for SSAFA was incredibly straightforward once I started drawing up the will with a solicitor. I don’t have children and wanted to know that the money I leave can be used for good.
“I don’t think it’s a morbid process, it’s just very practical.”
Mr Jones says: “Some of our supporters are not in a position to make a regular donation to support our work. However, they choose to make provision in their will by including a legacy gift to SSAFA.
“Through their estate, they enable us to deliver our commitment to provide lifelong support to the Armed Forces and their families when they need it. We are enormously grateful for their generosity.”