Professionals Update On HMCTS’ New Service For Charitable Bequests

Charity representatives are pleased the Government have recognised the service’s importance and fully support HMCTS’ decision to replace the system which will alert charities to donations in Wills.

Key professionals from the charity sector are convening to discuss the new service following an open letter to charities from Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS chief executive inviting them ‘to join a working group to bring together the views of the sector.’

Matthew Lagden, Chief Executive of the Institute of Legacy Management confirmed he is involved in the working group to design a new system and said: “We were involved in the initial consultation on this topic last year and are very supportive of what HMCTS want to do with the new system.”

He added: “We do think that the working group is too small and that key stakeholders have been omitted. We have written formally to the Ministry of Justice asking that the Charity Finance Group and the Law Society Wills and Probate Section be invited to send representatives to the group.

“Although (as the official press release acknowledged) we believe that Smee and Ford offered a generally excellent service, we see this as an opportunity to dramatically improve the situation for our members and the charity sector as a whole.”

The assembled working group, comprising of a cross-section of the Institute of Legacy Management’s members will meet this week and are consulting with other stakeholders to ensure that they are able to support the process fully and get the best result for everyone.

The Institute of Legacy Management will be asking, in particular, the following at the upcoming working group consultation:

  • The new service provides at least the same level of information as the current service and is provided free of charge to all charities using some of the increased income that will be raised from the Probate Fee increase


  • There is no break in service between the end of the Smee and Ford contract and the start of the new system – this is critical because of the role that Smee and Fords play in forecasting legacy income. These forecasts are used by members to plan their activities. If there is a break in the service, many of our members will have to scale back their operations, for a period at least, because of the uncertainty over income.


  • Any data collected is made available to anyone who can use it, within the constraints of data protection law, so that research groups can use it to understand legacy giving. At the moment, as a private company Smee and Ford are under no obligation to share their data, and do so on a very limited basis.

Furthermore, the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) and Remember A Charity, a campaign organisation that sits within the IOF will also be joining the working group with the aim of creating a new arrangement. An IOF’s spokesperson said: “We’re glad that the Government have recognised the service’s importance to the sector and are working towards replacing it.”

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, says: “The current notification service is an essential tool for charities, giving them timely information on any forthcoming legacy gifts generously left by the public. It helps charities forecast legacy income, manage the administration of estates and plan how they spend those donations to make the world a better place. With legacy income generating £3 billion a year, this data is vital for the charity sector. We hope that the future service continues to give fundraising charities the information they need and that the sector can continue to monitor any changes in charitable behaviour of all Wills that go to probate.

“It’s reassuring to see that Government recognises how important this service is for the charity sector, that new arrangements will be drawn up and that the charity sector will have a key part in that. But the next steps here will be critical.

“We look forward to helping to shape the future service on behalf of our members and the wider charity sector.”

Other experts within the charity sector expressed their views too, Chris Millward, founder at Legacy Giving Expert thinks the working group is a good opportunity to talk about other issues. He said: “It’s important that Smee and Ford, given their decades of knowledge and experience, are involved and that wider stakeholders, Trustees etc are also involved as this feels like a good opportunity not just to discuss the detail of any replacement but also to discuss wider issues re compliance, risk, auditing, income recognition etc in relation to legacy giving across the sector.”

As a Will Writer, what are your views of the Government’s new system?