The story starts with me heading north on the M6 one sunny Sunday afternoon in 2009. I was on my motorcycle going to meet a friend for a few days motorcycling around the Lakes. Then I was to meet my wife in Glasgow for a family re-union and a visit to Turnberry to see Tiger Woods in the British Open as a special birthday treat.
I was ahead of schedule and planning to stop at the Charnock Richard Service Station for a cup of tea when I was hit suddenly and very hard on the right hand side. I immediately realised I was in serious trouble. Next I was lying on the tarmac hoping that no-one would try to move me when a lady ran up and reassured me she was a nurse. Then a policeman told me the air ambulance was on its way and I have a vague recollection of being carried into a very small helicopter with a shiny white ceiling.
The next thing I knew was waking up seven days later in Intensive Care with my family all around me - I had actually missed my birthday!
Apparently, I was hit by a Punto car that collided with the central reservation and careered into me in the middle lane, causing me to somersault into the side of a caravan in the inside lane (leaving a clear imprint of my body just like in the cartoons)! My bike went on to blow out the rear tyre of the Mercedes following it and there was also a Rav 4 and a Volvo involved. It's fortunate that no-one else was seriously hurt and I have concluded that wearing the proper protective clothing coupled with bouncing into the caravan (which cushioned my projectory) almost certainly saved my life. Luckily no-one drove into me whilst I was lying on the tarmac and everyone blamed the Punto driver for excessive speed and losing control.
Putting life into perspective
I fractured thirteen ribs, cracked my vertebrae and my skull, broke my shoulder blade and punctured a lung. My left shoulder and arm and my right hand and my posterior suffered severe bruising and friction burns. Whilst on life support machines; my son counted that I had thirteen tubes in me and, in addition to needing blood transfusions, I also suffered a serious infection.
Preston Hospital kept me in a coma for a week to allow my body to start healing all my broken bits but I was back home the following Friday and back to work within one further month. I still have a stiff shoulder but I am leading a full life and even hacking my way around the golf course again. The human body is a truly wonderful thing (and modern drugs are very strong)!
I should explain that I am extremely happy to have survived against all the odds with remarkably little damage and I am treating the whole experience as positively as humanely possible. I have always been pretty laid back about most things but since that July day, it is my mission in life to be permanently horizontal! Many good things have resulted both personally and professionally and I now have an extra new career in the charity sector.
It goes without saying that words alone cannot express the huge debt of gratitude that my family and I owe to all the emergency services and other people who helped out on that day and since. It certainly illustrates that none of us have a crystal ball and we just don't know what's around the corner.
Once fully recovered I felt a strong urge to “give something back” and, in particular, I really wanted to repay the North West Air Ambulance in some small measure. I did undertake some fundraising for them but as with many things in life it needs a bit of luck and good timing for everything to come together - that is what has happened with "Gift 2%".
Making charitable giving easier
I have spent the last 20 plus years of my business life building County Wills from scratch into a very successful independent Will writing company. I know that the general public simply do not think of charities when they are making their Wills and I am aware that bequests to charity have been steadily falling for many years. However, I believe that if people are asked in the correct way, many would willingly contribute a small but significant amount.
Talking to my good friend Alasdair Macarthur (who has been doing voluntary work to raise the public profile of Parents and Children Together in Reading); this new Gifting concept emerged and we are asking the general public to consider donating just 2% of their final estates to their own favourite charity. For every new client who pledges 2%, County Wills are donating £50 (£60 with Gift Aid) to charity. If anyone has an up-to-date Will but simply wishes to now Gift 2% then we will happily produce a Codicil for them completely free of charge.
We have set up www.gift2percent.co.uk to bring Charities, Will writers and the General Public together and to enable people to search for their charity online and find a local Will writer to actually get the job done. In due course, we hope there will be information about the Will writer and the Charities just like the ratings you get for hotels on Expedia.
We have achieved over £450,000 in pledges in just the past 24 months but our long-term target is £100 million in pledges and £1 million in direct donations which equates to c20,000 pledges. County Wills have founded this new idea and now need to recruit other Will writers and lots of Charities to help but this is a very achievable target. Using Gift Aid adds 25% to all direct donations and all bequests in Wills are free of Inheritance Tax.
What's stopping you?
The Crunch Questions for everyone:
- Have you personally made a Will and if so, is it still up-to-date?
- If not, what has put you off in the past?
- Had you previously included or considered including a charitable bequest?
- Would you now be happy to Gift 2% to your favourite charity?
- If I posed these same questions to your work colleagues, family members and good friends; would they give the same answers?
I hope you have found this article interesting and that it gets you thinking a little bit about getting organised and no longer delaying the making or updating of your Will. If it actually motivated you to want to get involved and help us in our new campaign then that would be even more fantastic. This country has an absolutely marvellous track record with a large charitable sector and helping out in whatever small way you can is truly a Win Win situation.
Keith Douglas is a partner of County Wills & Probate and can be contacted on 07913 439636 or firstname.lastname@example.org