Vital Role of Solicitors in Legacies for Charities

Vital Role of Solicitors in Legacies for Charities

Recent research has emphasised how important the role is of a Solicitor in the decision by someone making a Will as to whether they make provision in the Will for a gift to charity. Legacies for charities in Wills are a very large part of the income of national charities with it being estimated that over £2 billion a year is left to charities in this way. However, the number of charities that benefit is less than 7% of the overall total number of charities in the country. For charities like the RSPCA about half of their annual income is derived from this source.

About half of the population do not have Wills so a good starting point for this is that more people should make Wills. The most basic aspect of Inheritance Tax planning is to make a Will in the first place but opportunities can often be lost by a fear of making a Will, the process or even talking to a Solicitor about this. Even when somebody wishes to make a Will there are a number of major decisions and one of them is whether to leave a legacy to a charity.

It is estimated that although about 35% of people intended to give money in their Will to charity those that actually did was only about 6%. Somewhere along the lines the message is being lost. Even ignoring the important financial aspect of tax planning a Will is essential in making sure that people and good causes/charities that we care about and are involved in will be looked after following death. As valued advisers very often Solicitors are in a central role to discuss the options with someone making a Will which can include whether to leave a legacy to charity and if so which charity although it is a very emotive area and a potentially difficult one unless dealt with sensitively and properly.

In the early discussions about making a Will it is often the case that people do not realise that making a gift to a charity in their Will is an option. Very often they will think about benefiting friends and family and also which members of the family they do not want to benefit! Giving a gift to a charity is not always forefront in their thoughts at that point.

The research also revealed that Solicitors generally felt able to raise the issue of leaving money to a charity when discussing making a Will with a client. Approximately 69% of people indicated that they would be happy for their Solicitor to raise the issue and as many as 46% of those surveyed thought a Solicitor had a positive duty to raise the option at the time of making a Will.

Charities have recently become very concerned about whether this source of income will reduce given the risk of claims being made against the estate of somebody after their death. Whilst this can never be ruled out legacy income is a very important source of income for charities and is an opportunity for someone to support the objectives of a charity after their death. Very often having a connection with the charity to whom the legacy is given will assist in avoiding claims being made against the estate after death and many people anyway will want to benefit a charity that they have been involved with or are aware of which can often include local as well as national charities.

Solicitors are very careful to make sure that all discussions surrounding making a Will are dealt with in a sensitive and constructive manner. Providing information about the possibility of adding a legacy to a charity in their Will is an important part of that.

At Clapham & Collinge, we have a multi discipline team dedicated to providing legal services to our clients from the charity sector. Please see our dedicated webpage on our legal services for Charities for more information.

To discuss your requirements in further detail, our dedicated Charities team will be delighted to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.