Short-Term Arrangement To Replace Current Wills Notification Service

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) have claimed that the proposed changes to the Wills Notification Service will launch a short-term arrangement that is set operate for around a year until a long-term solution is created and set up by the summer of 2020.

In February, the Government announced that the Wills Notification Service, helping the charity sector understand when a legacy is being left to them in a Will, was to be replaced.

Eager to make changes, HMCTS announced that changes to the system, which was being delivered by legacy solutions provider, Smee & Ford, was to close within six months.

This would mean that the current Wills Notification System will close by the end of July. Whilst it was clear that a new system was a high priority for HMCTS, many were left confused as to why changes needed to be made and what these changes would look like in practice. Unfortunately, little has changed!

Since the announcement in February, a working group, including The Institute of Legacy Management and a number of high-profile charities in the sector, have been collaborating with the government to explain their difficulties, challenges and help shape HMCTS shape the new system which will launch in August.

However, since the initial working group meeting in March, the Wills, Probate and charity sector have faced radio silence on the changes.

During the afternoon session of the the Institute of Legacy Management (ILM) Annual Conference 2019, HMCTS director of communications, Ed Owen, offered an update on the changes to those in attendance.

After thanking the charity sector for their patience and help during the consultancy period, Mr Owen emphasised the importance of the service. He highlighted that the input from the working group has been taken on board and will be incorporated into the new system. HMCTS were also complimentary of the assistance and guidance that Smee & Ford had offered them in helping to create a smooth transition into a new system.

HMCTS are set to launch the system in two phases. Firstly, in order to ensure a continuity of service beyond the current arrangements ending in July, a short-term arrangement will be set up to bridge a gap between the current system and a long-term successor in 2020.

However, Mr Owen’s was unable to offer any further information on what the interim system will look like. Instead, a vague date of ‘some time next month’ will enlighten the sector on what the changes will look like and how they will affect the charity sector.

The charity sector will therefore be informed of how the current system will change the Wills Notification System a matter of weeks before the short-term system is launched. The growing fear concerns a lack of time to plan and prepare for any changes which could cause delays to the system and will impact on the charity’s ability to add the legacy to their accrual figures.

When asked about the long-term system, the HMCTS were unable to offer any clear information as the system is still in its consultancy stage, lacking any definitive direction or tangible form. In all likelihood, it is more than a year away with updates on permanent changes not expected until the end of 2019.

Following the announcement, delegates questioned why changes were being made to a system that is perceived to be working well. HMCTS were vague on their response other than to reiterate that changes are not a reflection of the service provided by Smee & Ford, but rather arrangements do not conform with legislation and were therfore legally obliged to make reforms.

As many a Government policy gathers dust on the shelf or remains obscured in the long grass whilst the government commit their time to Brexit discussions, fresh information on this vital service to the legacy sector could still be a long way off.

How disruptive will these changes be to the charity sector? Will a new service improve the way charities are notified about legacy gifts left in Wills?

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