Could The Surge In Demand For Will-Writing Save The Nation’s Charities?

Lucinda Darby is Marketing Manager of Remember A Charity – a consortium of 200 charities with a network of legal advisers (Campaign Supporters), working to normalise legacy giving in the UK. 

Lucinda has taken some time to talk to Today’s Wills and Probate about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on will making and charities.

The global pandemic has devastated lives, families and businesses across the UK, and for charities it’s been a double-edged sword. It’s not only the loss of funding from events like the London Marathon, other fundraising activities and trading income that has ravaged the sector, but the health crisis has brought about more need for charitable services than ever.

Imagine for a moment a life in the UK without access to charitable services like air ambulances and lifeguards, hospices and NHS charities, guide dogs and mental health support, not to mention food and sanitation supplies for those living in isolation during lockdown. But the coronavirus has had a devastating impact on charities and that puts the future of such vital services in peril. Against this backdrop, charitable bequests have a critical role to play in the nation’s future.

In time of crisis, it is legacy donations – many of which were pledged years or even decades previously – that have the potential to sustain charities and frontline services over the long-term. And, with solicitors Will-writers and charities all reporting a marked increase in demand for Wills, this could yet be a crucial silver lining, helping to reduce intestacy and encourage the public to consider how they wish to benefit family, friends and good causes once they are gone.

Urgent need for funding

The UK charity sector is facing a heavy funding shortfall. For weeks on end, charities’ ability to fundraise has been hugely compromised, with sector studies projecting income losses well over £12 billion.[1]

While the public’s gifts in Wills may be a saving grace, this vital funding stream was by no means immune to the pandemic. Estate values fell sharply as stocks, shares and property markets fell. Legal advisers will recognise the difficulty in witnessing Wills and completing estates during lockdown, meaning that very little income from bequests made it through to intended charities’ accounts during the height of the pandemic, stalling cash flow and disrupting frontline services.

And yet, reports of peak interest in charitable Wills – the largest source of voluntary income – brings a beacon of hope that has never been more needed. What’s more, new legislation allowing video witnessing could help vulnerable people who are shielding or unable to have witnesses present to set out their wishes legally.

Greater demand for legacy giving

As is often the case in times of crisis, the global pandemic has brought people together, motivating them to think about what really matters to them and what they can do to help. The public’s appetite for charitable giving and helping communities around them seems to be at a record high.

The spike in demand for information about legacy giving continues, with twice as many people currently visiting Remember A Charity’s ‘Making A Will’ page as would do normally. In fact, one of the nation’s biggest charities told me that they’d seen an 80% increase in web traffic to the charity’s legacy giving pages in the first week of lockdown.

But, could this rise in demand for charitable Will-writing really help charities recover from such hefty losses?

When you consider that, although 40% of the over 40s[2] say they would be happy to leave a gift in their Will but that, currently, only around 6% of people that die actually do so, there is a massive disconnect here. Legacy donations raise over £3 billion for good causes in this country annually – a phenomenal sum. So, even just a small increase in the proportion of people choosing to give in this way could make a considerable difference to charities’ income. And it’s solicitors and Will-writers that play such a key role in ensuring that every client understands that they have the option of donating from their Will if they wish to do so, after taking care of their family and friends.

Power of conversation

These conversations with legal professionals really help to break down the myths that surround this form of charitable giving. A legacy donation doesn’t have to be large, it can be any sum for any charity.

Studies show that even the simplest reference by solicitors to the option of including a donation can make a huge difference to the number of people that choose to leave a bequest.[3] So, we’re asking Will-writers across the country to make all relevant clients aware of the option of including a donation.

If charities and the legal sector can build on this uplift in demand for Will-writing, ensuring every end of life planning conversation includes a reference to the opportunity of leaving a charitable bequest, I believe that this could be a pivotal opportunity to secure the future of vital services, while ensuring the public’s final wishes are met.

References

[1] Chartered Institute of Fundraising, Charity Finance Group, NCVO (June 2020)

[2] One Poll (2019)

[3] Behavioural Insights Team (2013)

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