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Lawyers and Legacies

At the recent IoF Legacy Conference, lawyer Alison Talbot of Blake Talbot gave some valuable insights into a lawyer’s perspective on legacy fundraising, covering discretionary legacies, advertising in charity gazettes and asking solicitors to promote a particular charity.

To start with, she berated charities for chasing discretionary legacies, suggesting that professional executors found them a nuisance and that they upset donors’ families.
My reaction was that, if lawyers find the charities’ letters so troubling and are concerned for family executors, why then don’t they discourage will makers from leaving this type of legacy in the first place? After all, there are other sorts of legacy they can leave, most of which are easier to administer.
Talbot also went on to add that, unbeknown to fundraising charities, many discretionary legators of course leave a list of preferred charities, not included in their will. In other words, while discretionary legacies can appear to be a good opportunity (if still a long shot), in practice the money is already allocated and the chances of success therefore very slim.
Interestingly, she also nailed a common question from charities about advertising in legal gazettes, by confirming that she checks charity details for will making clients not in these publications, but on the Charity Commission website. So, if we needed a reminder, here it is from the horse’s mouth folks – don’t waste money advertising in legal gazettes. Invest it in better donor care, where it will make a real difference.
Talbot confirmed yet again that, in practice, solicitors rarely influence the choice of charity (in fact I have only ever met one lawyer who did claim to influence people in favour of his chosen charity). She also confirmed that her firm will not allow charity literature in its reception area, so the opportunities here were also limited and we can assume this is the case with many other firms.
I know there are ways we can work with lawyers, but we need to be clued up about what they can and cannot do for us. For most charities, efforts should really be focussed on prospective donors (as well as stewarding enquirers and pledgers) rather than trying to court professionals who have limited opportunities and little inclination to help bring in legacies.
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