Let’s work together for everyone’s benefit
I’m a solicitor (qualified in 2006) and STEP member who was in private practice but now working as a Senior Legacy Officer at the NSPCC.
While I was still working full time, I volunteered a few hours a week within the NSPCC legacy department. I jumped at the volunteering as a chance to gain some charitable experience and was fortunate that during this time a full-time legacy officer role became available. When offering to volunteer I had been very keen to ensure awareness of my lack of charity experience and how wondered if my skills would be readily transferable and suited to a legacy officer – perhaps I may have presented this differently if I had known there was going to be a vacancy so soon! However, this showed my respect for legacy officers – I knew what a valuable role they had and had wanted to ensure that I could gain experience of this.
I always found legacy officers to have specialist information, knowledge, and awareness on items such as appropriation and s119 reports for charity – and contacts who could undertake reports quickly if necessary – to help ensure the estate could be progressed quickly and efficiently. This would also keep costs down which is good for all estate beneficiaries (even if not charity beneficiaries!). All of this made we want to ensure I could be of a real assistance to solicitors – and for them to see me as adding value to their file.
I’ve now been at the NSPCC since 2016 so I certainly think (hope) I am delivering on my aim of using my specialist knowledge to assist both solicitors and lay executors dealing with an estate. When dealing with Solicitors, I know that private client solicitors administer estates professionally but I’m here to be able to give them help to make the estate process as efficient as possible. I’m not here to step on their toes but I remember what it is like to have billing and time recording targets, as well as clients who want an estate to be dealt with in the most cost-effective manner.
For example I can help solicitors when appropriation may be suitable or do the calculations to say if, in a taxable estate with exempt and non-exempt beneficiaries, a deed of variation may result in not only the charities receiving more, but the other beneficiaries also receiving more if the deed of variation results in a lower rate of IHT. I can also do calculations where grossing up (or double grossing up) applies in taxable estates and provide the workings and share knowledge about claims against estates or other things that may crop up in an estate – we have usually seen a lot!
Where there is more than one charity beneficiary one can act as ‘lead charity’ so the solicitor only corresponds with one charity – who will update the others and collate replies.
All these things help the solicitor who (as I well remember) has many, many files to progress. As legacy officers, we are here to help solicitors – we know that their knowledge needs to cover so much but we can help with the specialist charity legacy aspects. When someone leaves a gift to a charity in their Will, that charity obviously means a lot to that person so it makes sense for us to work together.
Private client solicitors and legacy officers really can (should?) complement each other as this ensures the best outcome for the estate.
Rebecca Gray is a Solicitor, STEP Member and a Senior Legacy Management Officer at the NSPCC. She is also a member of Institute of Legacy Managers (ILM)