Roundtable Discussions: Charitable Legacies, Smee & Ford And Increasing Legacy Giving

The latest Wills & Probate Roundtable hosted by Today’s Wills & Probate was held in London on Wednesday 29th May 2019.

Taking a break from the ever-present issue of probate fees, the event instead focused on charitable donations and legacy management.

Recent research has shown that 40% of people would be prepared to leave a legacy in their will, but only 6% do, identifying that education of the will writer/solicitor is critical to raise awareness of the opportunity.

Marcos Kallou, Will Writer and council member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters suggested that simply asking the question didn’t fully justify the opportunity, but instead practitioners need to be asking the “right” question(s).

John Jacques of Save the Children acknowledges that both the charities, and the collaborative bodies like Remember a Will and Will Aid, must continue to do more to help will makers implement donations and legacies.

Will Aid, now in its 31st year, has generated £20m in donations since its inception with 17,000 enquiries in 2018 alone. However, it is unable to fulfil all these and is actively seeking to recruit new firms to get involved.

Michael Clarke of Remember a Charity opened the day with a passionate presentation, challenging attendees to consider ways in which practitioners could be encouraging instructors to consider charitable donations and legacies in their wills.

As the debate continued it became clear that while the industry can do much to help itself, there are a number of external factors which will become barriers to charitable giving in years to come.

The continued challenge of homeownership for younger people has hit legacy giving as the baby boomers are helping children and grandchildren with significant deposit contributions to help them get on the property ladder.

In cases where residual legacies are left, the significant growth in equity release and expensive care home fees has also hit charities.

Wrapping up, Michael Clarke urged practitioners to move charitable giving toward being a “social norm” when someone writes their wills.

Lydia Pemberton followed with an aptly titled discussion “Fighting the good fight (and when to quit).” As a contentious wills practitioner with 3PB Barristers, she outlined the opportunity and pitfalls of contesting wills, especially in sectors such as the charity sector where there is scope for bad publicity.

Statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 4 people would be prepared to contest a will with Lydia impressing on attendees the need to establish totality of the evidence in order to understand when litigation is appropriate.

Context is everything and decisions to contest may be flawed without access to all the detail surrounding the drafting and execution of the will.

In a lively discussion, a number of practical ways to avoid litigation were provided including keeping a good Wills file and record, using technology like video recording to make a visual record, and verifying key information provided by the client like checking property ownership with Land Registry (which potentially leads to other work including changing ownership status)

In a late addition to the agenda the discussion turned to the risk of charities losing as much as 10% of their income in the following months in the wake of the cancellation of the Smee & Ford contract.

With no alternative in place with just 2 of the 6 month termination period left, the charity sector is left with the challenge of how to forecast and project future investment without the 30,000+ legacies that Smee & Ford introduced annually.

Our thanks to MetroBank for their hospitality and the next Roundtable is planned for August 2019.

Today’s Wills & Probate continues to grow its community of Wills & Probate practitioners and is involved in running these Roundtables as well as running the British Wills & Probate Awards.

Now into its 2nd year the event is being held at The Belfry. Entries for the awards are being accepted from practitioners across England & Wales and close on 14th June. If you want to get involved please visit our website  –

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