HMCTS Announce New System Which Alerts Charities To Will Bequests

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is implementing a new system, which alerts charities when money has been bequeathed, after ending their current arrangement.

The reason behind terminating HMCTS’ current scheme with private firm, Smee and Ford, which has provided a paid-for notification service to participating charities for many years, was because “it is not consistent with the department’s legal duties”.

HMCTS are aware of how much legacies play a vital part in funding charities across the country. Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS chief executive, said in her letter to charities that “more than 122,000 charitable bequests were contained in Wills in 2017 alone, and we are committed to ensuring a notification system continues.”

The current system is proposed to cease on the 31st July 2019, but in the interim they will work closely with Smee and Ford to make sure there is very little disruption over the next six months’ notice period – and due to Smee and Ford’s vast knowledge of the current service, they will also be seeking their views on future options.

During the notice period, the charity sector will also be involved in shaping the new long-term arrangement as HMCTS seek to work closely with the sector to execute a workable system that satisfies everyone involved.

Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS chief executive said: “I recognise the value to charities of receiving early notification of bequests left in wills and we are committed to working alongside the sector to establish a new, sustainable arrangement that works for everyone.

“Our decision to end our current arrangement with Smee and Ford is no reflection on the service provided by them but comes as a result of an assessment of our legal position. We will continue to work closely with the company to seek to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible arising out of these changes over the next period.”

HMCTS have contacted an array of charity stakeholders including ACEVO, NCVO, the Institute of Fundraising and Institute of Legacy Management to participate in a working group to collectively bring together views of the sector. The aim of the consultation with charity representatives is to help establish a new service which delivers a sustainable and efficient arrangement for the charitable sector.

Smee and Ford’s long-standing agreement with HMCTS has since received a barrage of messages from charities who fully support the existing system with Rob Hope, director of Remember A Charity saying the current system was ‘the envy of the world’.

Legacy Foresight released their latest figures on charitable gifts which raised a staggering £3 billion in donations through gifts in Wills in 2017 – and are predicted to reach £3.4 billion by 2022.

According to data from 260,000 wills in 2016/2017, Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation were in the top five biggest beneficiaries. Other popular charities include the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and RSPCA.

Rob Cope comments on Legacy Foresight’s findings, he said: “it underlines just how important charitable bequests are to the sector now and in the future, funding vital services across the country.”

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 As a Will writer, what is your opinion of the proposed new arrangement? Do you think a new system was needed?