From tax planner to Legacy Professional

Having spent two decades specialising in capital taxes planning for a Big Four accounting firm working alongside Private Client lawyers, it was second nature to me to enhance my role within a hospice charity by forging collaborative relationships with local legal professionals, encouraging many to support our Wills Weeks campaigns and to provide free advice to hospice users as our Legal Advisers of the Month.

So, when my charity is listed as a Will beneficiary alongside other charities, whether local or national, and a law firm with which I hold a pre-existing relationship is engaged to administer the Estate, I volunteer to act as the lead charity, saving the lawyer from having to answer directly to multiple charity beneficiaries, minimising costs to the Estate and benefitting everyone.

Within that lead role I have encountered some interesting scenarios, which have drawn on both my professional knowledge and my preference for constructive and tactful dialogue rather than confrontation.  Among these, I can count:

  • Having to ask an experienced Probate lawyer to re-visit their IHT calculations and consider how they might appear if the Re: Benham Will clause was recognised, rather than overlooked;
  • Assisting a lawyer over HMRC’s double-grossing calculations during the course of a weekend, enabling advice to be given, and a Deed of Variation executed, just ahead of the expiry of the two-year deadline;
  • Adopting the role of chief negotiator when a prospective property purchaser had fallen out with the lawyer acting as sole executor, breaking the impasse, increasing the offer for the property to an amount in excess of its probate value, and helping to achieve exchange of contracts just prior to the expiry of the PR’s annual Capital Gains Tax exemption;
  • On numerous occasions, supplying or correcting IHT and Estate distribution calculations, providing CGT guidance and, in one case, completely re-working the IHT400 submission to correct a multitude of errors in the original suite of forms, saving the costs of employing London-based accountants to undertake the work (which, in that case, would have had to come from the lawyer’s own pocket, rather than from Estate funds!); and
  • Acting, very often, as the intermediary between lawyers and other beneficiaries, both charities and individuals, explaining, at no cost to the Estate, complex tax or legal matters, thereby supporting the legal professional, aiding everyone’s understanding and adding reassurance where necessary.

Just the other day, one of our supportive local lawyers telephoned to ask about offshore bonds, charities and tax recovery.  Fortunately I had the answer at my fingertips, having encountered the issue before, which saved the enquirer valuable research time.

My present job title gives no clue to my background, my past experiences, my knowledge or my personal skills, and that will be the same for almost any legacy practitioner.  So my challenge to members of the legal profession is to ignore the labelling and to have the courage to open the box, because the contents are likely to prove rather more valuable than may be imagined!


Nick Duncan, CiCLA, us Legacy & In Memory Lead at St Nicholas Hospice Care

Today's Wills and Probate