Significant Shift In Public Attitudes To Charitable Legacies

People’s attitudes to leaving gifts in Wills to charities have become more positive over the past ten years, according to the latest UK consumer tracking poll commissioned by Remember a Charity.

Remember a Charity, who help charities who rely on gifts in Wills to continue their work and to grow the legacy market, have seen a significant shift in the public’s perspective of charitable legacy giving – which is undoubtedly down to the hard work of the charity and legal sectors working together to communicate about the impact of gifts in Wills.

The Charity’s OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK respondents which was carried out in March-April 2019, found that 40% of people aged 40 plus would be happy to give a small percentage of their estate to charity, up from 35% in 2008. Almost two thirds (65%) said that it was acceptable to leave your entire estate to charity if you wish.

The large majority (70%) of respondents felt that people should tell their children if they intended to leave a ‘reasonable sum of money’ to charity in their Will. Only one in four (26%) thought their family would object to them making such a gift, down from 31% in 2008.

Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, says:

“We’ve seen a real shift in attitudes in recent years with the public indicating that they are more open to the concept of legacy giving and this is a positive sign for the years ahead.

“While legacy income will inevitably fluctuate to reflect wider economic trends, the public’s propensity to give is the key driving factor for market growth. This poll suggests not only that the public is more willing to leave a gift, but that they have a clearer understanding of legacy giving and think people should be free to do what they want with their estates.

“People still do worry about how their family might feel if they leave a charitable gift in their Will and this underlines the importance of encouraging potential legators to discuss their wishes with their family, reducing the risk of dispute.”

In 2008, the majority of respondents said that it was better to give money when you are alive than through a legacy (63%) and that close relatives have a right to the majority of an estate (72%). Today, according to the latest survey findings, those views are held by a minority, at 47% and 41% respectively.

Cope adds:

“This new level of understanding of legacies undoubtedly reflects how hard charities and the legal sector have been working to communicate positively and collaboratively about the impact of gifts in Wills, handling the topic with sensitivity. The challenge now for Remember A Charity – and a key pillar of our new three-year strategy – is to review what can be done to shift the emphasis on from building awareness to inspiring supporters into taking action and writing charitable gifts into their Wills.”

However, there may be disruptors on the horizon for the charity sector which could impact charitable legacies. One of these is the changes to the Wills Notification Service which has concerns over the issues involved with a change over from the current service to the new legacy notification service. There has been growing concern over the lack of time to plan for and prepare for any changes which could cause delays, thus, impacting on the charity sector’s ability to add the legacy to their accrual figures.

While another disruptor is the Non-Contentious Probate Fees Order 2018 which continues to be an albatross in the sector. Earlier this year, Maria King, Chair of the Institute of Legacy Management talked about the damaging effects the planned increased in probate fees will have on the charitable sector.

She said:

“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.”

At the end of March, this year charity bodies wrote to the Ministry of Justice urgently seeking an alternative proposal on the probate fees by asking for a reduced or discounted rate on fees for an estate that include legacy gifts.

The bodies suggested that a reduction in probate fees for estates and wills that include legacy gifts “could result in a positive and welcome opportunity to promote and encourage charitable gifts in wills”.

On a more positive note, a report carried out late last year by Remember a Charity and Co-op Legal Services, which looked at the legacy giving patterns of UK Wills in 2018 found that charitable gifts included in Wills had increased by 30% in the past year.

Are you seeing more clients inclined to leave charity legacies in their Wills? Are family members disputing testator’s wishes to leaving a gift to a charity in their Will?

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