Five policy issues every legacy fundraiser should know about

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At Remember A Charity, we're keen to ensure our members' voices are heard in some of the biggest policy developments affecting legacy giving right now.

Legacy giving is going from strength to strength - up 43% in the last decade. But to keep up this momentum, charities need to be playing an active role in shaping the ever evolving Will-writing landscape. Right now, we're working on these five key issues:

1) Protecting tax incentives for charitable bequests

Calls to scrap inheritance tax (IHT) have been gaining momentum and it’s reported that Downing Street is mulling it over. Given that the current IHT framework means that legacy donations are tax free and, if someone donates 10% or more of their estate to charity, their tax rate is reduced from 40% to 36%, any change to IHT that impacts these incentives could have a hefty impact on charitable bequests.

Ahead of any such calls flowing through into formal proposals for change, we’re urging policymakers to consult with us to ensure the potential impact on legacy income will not be forgotten. We’ve already written to the Chancellor and Minister for Civil Society highlighting that donations through the IHT exemption account for around half of legacy income, and are a key reason why solicitors or professional advisers bring up the topic of legacy giving with clients.  

In terms of next steps, we’re collating a body of evidence that demonstrates how important these incentives are to legacy income.

2) Delays at probate

Legacy income is highly dependent on probate services and the timely release of funds from grants at probate.  Since 2019, when Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) moved to a digital system for probate and the volume of applications increased, there has been a build-up of cases in the system. Although they have taken steps to address the problem, including investing in recruiting 100 new members of staff, the number of cases in the system remains high.

There is some good news, 80% of applications are now coming in digitally, which are taking less than 5 weeks to complete on non-stopped estates. As a member of the HMCTS Probate Service Users working group, we know that HMCTS is focusing on getting through stopped cases in the system, which may well mean that you’re seeing more gifts from high value estates but lower volumes.

We’re continuing to meet with HMCTS and will share updates, our members can access the latest briefing here.

3) Calling for legislative change to enable a new Scottish Notifications system

There’s been no legacy notification service in Scotland since 2019, as high costs made the service unviable. This means that charities may not always be aware they’ve been named in someone’s Will and some charities are already reporting a loss in income from Scottish Wills, indicating legacy gifts may not all be reaching intended recipients.

Implementing a new notification system will require legislative change in court fees, which we have been working to achieve alongside the ILM and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising Scotland. We’re delighted to have received a positive response from the Scottish Government, in which they confirmed that they share our concerns about charities’ income and will be consulting on court fees next year.

4) Championing your views in the upcoming Law Commission Wills Project

The commission is reviving its Wills Project and will be opening a consultation in September which will look at two key areas of legislative reform that could impact legacy giving; laws around the revocation of Wills by marriage, and electronic Wills. The latter could make Will-writing easier, and cost-effective. But developments in this area must also mitigate against fraud and minimise room for disputes.   

As soon as the consultation is announced, together with the ILM, we will ensure a strong response from the sector is made.

5) Supporting legal and safe Will-writing

Growth in the range of Will-writing services means people can write a Will without necessarily going to a law firm. Whilst this can make the process cheaper and sometimes more convenient, complaints have been made that some providers are not complying with consumer protection laws. As such, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into unregulated Will-writing and other legal services.

With so many charities having Will-writing partnerships, this is a timely reminder of how crucial it is you have full confidence in any such partner and that they deliver a great service to your supporters. If you have any concerns you would like to raise with the CMA, you can share your feedback by 14th September. In the meantime, we also encourage you to read the ILM's discussion paper and complete their short survey.

Where next?

The legacy world will never stop evolving. So, please do get in touch with your views on how we can keep nurturing this legacy environment and making an impact for you.

Feel free to email us anytime on with your thoughts.