Charity Bodies Welcome Interim Wills Notification Service

HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced the Wills notification service will continue with Smee & Ford in the interim until they have implemented a new long-term arrangement.

HMCTS have agreed on a sustainable arrangement with Smee & Ford for the existing legacy notification service to continue until a new service have been put in place. It is believed there will be some changes to the interim service but essentially it will remain much the same as before.

It was announced early this year that the government was terminating its existing arrangement with Smee & Ford that notifies charities of bequests in Wills. Since then, The Institute of Legacy Management (ILM) has been working closely with HMCTS and other organisations to ensure a smooth transition and a workable interim arrangement.

HMCTS has published an open letter from CEO Susan Acland-Hood about the arrangements, explaining what Smee & Ford’s interim solution will be which will be communicated directly to its existing customers.  The new arrangements involve amending a number of fees, including significantly reducing probate copy fees. The changes, which were laid before parliament this week are due to begin on 22nd July 2019.

However, as a result of this change in fees, Smee & Ford’s operating costs will be increasing from August as they are required to pay the fee for all Wills and grants. Even though charities will be asked to pay more for each notification received, Acland-Hood explained in the open letter that…..” the service will be enhanced by the inclusion of a copy of the relevant Will itself.”

The open letter confirms the interim arrangement with Smee & Ford will be in operation for at least the next 12 months, while they continue to collaborate with the charity sector and other representatives to “design longer-term arrangements to support legacy notification”.

ILM are very grateful for the large amount of work by all parties that has gone on behind the scenes to make this possible, and to HMCTS for listening to their concerns about the consequences of a break in service and acting upon them.

Matthew Lagden, CEO of The Institute of Legacy Management said:

“We are very pleased that HMCTS has made this announcement regarding an interim service, as we were aware that our members were concerned about any gap in service.

“We will continue to work closely with HMCTS to help them develop a long-term arrangement that works for the whole sector and ensures that all charitable gifts achieve their greatest potential for the charities to which they are intended.”

ILM will continue to work constructively with HMCTS to support their efforts to put in place long term arrangements that work well for their members and the charity sector as a whole.

Remember A Charity and the Institute of Fundraising also welcome the announcement of the interim legacy notification service, released by HMCTS. Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity said:

“Ensuring the continuity of a reliable Wills notification service is an absolute priority for the charity sector, so we would like to thank HMCTS for their collaborative approach to resolving this matter.

“The Will-writing environment is rapidly changing, which presents huge challenges and opportunities for good causes who rely on the public’s generosity of gifts in Wills. We look forward to continuing to work together with HMCTS and across government to ensure that any longer-term arrangements will build on these foundations and better support the needs of smaller charities and a wider range of causes.”

Remember A Charity is part of the working group of sector bodies and has been in long-term discussions with HMCTS about proposed changes to the notification service.

Cope further adds:

“With legacies bringing in more than £3 billion a year to UK charities, the provision of information about legacy gifts is vital to the sector. Legacy notification enables charities to forecast legacy income and manage the administration of estates, helping to ensure that people’s last wishes to support good causes are met.”

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