The New Wills Notification System And the Charity Sector

As the Wills Notification Service transitions into a temporary iteration this summer, Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) and Institute of Scottish Professional Willwriters’ (ISPW) members will need to ensure they are aware of the changes that are likely to impact the charity sector.

Despite Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) announcing that the 12-month interim system will continue to use Smee & Ford’s services, the changes to Wills Notifications will be significant moving forward.

At the end of January 2019, the Government announced that it was to terminate the contract with Smee & Ford and will look for new ways of notifying charities of bequests and legacy gifts left to the charity sector in Wills.

Many charitable organisations and regulators warned the Government that a disruption to the current service could cost the sector millions per year in lost legacy gifts.

At the beginning of May, HMCTS announced that the new look Wills Notification Service will launch in two phases. A short-term arrangement will run for around a year from the beginning of August in order to ensure a continuity of service beyond the current arrangements that will end in July.

At the beginning of July, less than a month before the changes take effect, HMCTS announced that Smee & Ford will continue to offer the service whilst adapting their role.

A statutory Instrument was laid by the Lord Chancellor to amend several fees, including a reduction in probate copy fees. The changes will come into force from July 22nd 2019.

The new system will require Smee & Ford to provide all charities with a copy of the Will alongside the basic information offered in the standard notification. As a result, Smee & Ford’s operating costs will increase as they are charged a statutory fee for all wills and grants. In turn, this could increase the cost of each notification.

A disruption of any kind could have a huge impact on the money charities receive. Considering the record number of legacy gifts left to the charity sector in 2018, a disruption could be significant if this trend continues in 2019.

Smee & Ford announced that charities received over £3 billion in legacy income last year. This marked a 10% increase from the £2.8 billion accrued in 2017.

The research also found an increase in charitable estates and the highest number of individual charities named in Wills ever recorded.

123,235 bequests were recorded in 2018 according to data from Smee & Ford. This represents an increase of 386 bequests from 2017’s total of 122,849.

Additionally, the number of estates leaving a legacy gift also increased last year. In total, 6.3% of the people who died in 2018 left a legacy gift, with the donations exceeding 16% of the entire value of the total deceased estates.

As the number of legacy gifts being left to the charity sector continues to grow and the list of charities receiving gifts increases, it is important practitioners understand the changes to the Wills Notification Service and grasp a confident understanding of how to help their clients plan to leave specific gifts and legacies.

On Tuesday 17th September, the Willwriting Academy will host a 3-day ‘Open Willwriters Link (OWL)’ meeting which takes place at the Weston Hall Hotel in Bulkington. Delegates will receive information on lifetime trusts and constructing appropriate files.

Click here for more information.

This article was submitted to be published by the Institute of Professional Will Writers as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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