Institute Of Legacy Management Discusses Increased Probate Fees’ Impact On Charities

Solicitor and Chair of the Institute of Legacy Management, and Head of Legacy Professional Partnerships at Cancer Research UK, Maria King, talks about the damaging effects that the planned increases in probate fees will have on the charitable sector.

As Probate professionals I’m sure all readers of Today’s Wills and Probate will be familiar with the Government’s proposal to increase Probate Fees to a maximum of £6,000, and be aware of the impact this will have on clients. I’m writing as Chair of the Institute of Legacy Management to highlight the impact this fee increase would have on the charitable sector.

The Institute of Legacy Management represents individuals working within charities to administer and collect money that has been left in wills by generous supporters. We have over 500 individual members, representing more than 300 charities. These charities range from small local organisations to the very largest such as Cancer Research UK. The Institute of Legacy Management provides training and support to its members, works with external stakeholders such as the Law Society and leading law firms to improve the administration of estates generally, and seeks to represent our members’ interests on issues of concern.

The work our members carry out gives us an unparalleled knowledge of legacy giving and provides charities with vital income. Without legacy income many charities would have to restrict their operations, and some would face closure. We’re extremely grateful to the hundreds of thousands of generous individuals who have chosen to leave a charitable gift in their will, and to professionals who write those wills and efficiently administer the estates once people have died.

The Institute of Legacy Management is always alert to any proposed changes to Wills, Probate and charity matters that could impact legacy giving, engages in relevant consultations and uses its voice constructively. We campaigned against the Probate Fee changes, both in 2017 and 2018, and have calculated that the proposed changes will cost the charity sector £10m annually. If the proposal is implemented, Cancer Research UK’s income will be reduced by £600,000 per annum. This is enough to pay for two years of research into the personalisation of bowel cancer drugs, so you can see the impact the fee increase would have on its life saving work and appreciate the impact on other charities. Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its research and relies entirely on generous supporters. Last year, over a third of the charity’s pioneering research was funded by gifts left in wills.

The Institute of Legacy Management is concerned that to save money people may choose not to instruct professionals to carry out Probate, might renounce their executorship, or simply not apply for Probate in order to avoid the fee. This causes us concern, as residuary charities may need to divert funds away from their charitable objectives to pay for upfront Probate Fees when they step in as administrator. Additionally, anything that could deter the probate process is a risk to vital legacy income.

We have not yet given up hope that the Government will think again on this issue and are asking whether they will consider implementing an exemption for estates that are largely or wholly left to charity. We’re also grateful to Today’s Wills and Probate for the coverage you have given this issue, and on behalf of the Institute of Legacy Management and charities large and small, I would  like to thank you for the role you play as individuals in supporting the charity sector through the writing of charitable Wills and administration of legacies.

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