A guest blog from Gareth Wisdom, Partner, Wills and Estate Planning at Hugh James.

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you ask it

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A 2020 survey by the Law Society found that just 20% of individuals who already had a will had made provision for charity in it. 

Even more stark were the findings of research conducted by Remember A Charity; this found that whilst 40% of people say that they would be happy to include a charity in their will, only 7% actually do. 

We have all, no doubt, taken instructions from clients who almost in knee-jerk fashion answer “no” when asked “do you want to leave any gifts to charity in your will?”  Of course, where appropriate, a conversation about the inheritance tax treatment of charitable gifts and the potential to reduce the overall rate from 40% to 36% can prompt some clients to reconsider the question. 

The impact of how legacies are discussed

Joint research between Remember a Charity and the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team has also shown that how charitable giving is discussed as part of the will making process can have a dramatic impact. 

Here, a closed question was compared both to i) not asking about charitable giving at all and ii) asking the question in a way that brought in social norms and emotions.  They found that the number of individuals including charitable legacies tripled and the average donation amount was doubled.  

Simple tweaks to enable prompting

Heeding the research, at Hugh James we have made small tweaks to our processes to more effectively prompt and allow clients to properly consider charitable giving. 

For example, by adapting to say “Some clients like to leave a gift to charity, are there any causes that you feel strongly about?”, we have found that clients naturally give more consideration to the question.  It also introduces a dialogue about charitable giving generally and can also act as a juncture at which to move to look at inheritance tax with the client. 

Straightforward changes to our client literature and to the topics upon which we blog and post on social media also strive to normalise charitable giving and prompt more thought by our clients, colleagues and wider public. 

A small change with a huge impact

If your usual style is to ask the typical closed question, why not give a more open and emotive question a try?  This simple change doesn’t cost us anything as legal professionals but the potential benefit for the legacy sector (and in turn the wider public) is huge. 

Gareth Wisdom, Hugh James