Seven years ago, I wrote my first Will. My solicitor talked it through with me, asking what I wanted to leave to family and friends, but she never mentioned the option of giving to charity. All too often I hear similar stories.
What’s more, with recent changes to inheritance tax meaning that fewer people will be eligible for tax breaks on charitable legacies, the danger is that charity may become even further removed from solicitors’ thinking.
There is a very real threat that legacy giving will suffer, unless we can ensure that charity is a regular part of will-writing discussions.
If we look at why solicitors don’t always reference charity when helping clients prepare their wills, it is often the case that they believe their clients know what the options are and that they have already made up their minds about who they’re going to leave money to.
But the reality is usually very different. We live busy, complicated lives. We live longer than previous generations, the cost of living is higher, we have extended families. This all means that there is much to think about when we’re trying to plan who should get what when we go.
Even if there isn’t going to be that much to pass on and although the Will-writing process is pretty straight-forward, there’s a lot to think about at a time like this. We need support going and we take our steer from professional solicitors and Will-writers.
Charity is a glaring omission from Will-writing prompts
For someone who has worked in the charity sector for more than 15 years, the fact that my solicitor didn’t ask me about the causes that mattered to me was a glaring omission.
Why wasn’t she asking me about the other things that I cared about, beyond my family and friends? If she had, we would have spoken about the local children’s hospital that saved my daughter’s life. I would have explained that I see a legacy donation to the hospital as a chance to not only say thank you, but also to make sure that those life-saving services continue for generations.
Of course, with legacy fundraising being a core part of what I do, I did write the charity into my Will.
The fact remains, however, that most people in that situation wouldn’t have done so. Not because they were any less charitable, but for a variety of reasons. They might not know they had the option to give in this way, they may think that they have to give a large or set amount, or it may simply have slipped their mind. It can be an emotive time after all.
Importance of professional advisers in growing legacy giving
Just by including a reference to the option of including a charity in your Will, research shows that advisers can double or even – depending on the wording used – treble the amount of people that choose to leave a donation. These conversations really do make a big difference and the role of advisers is critical in helping create a cultural shift to a point where legacy giving becomes a social norm.
Solicitors aren’t fundraisers – it certainly isn’t what they are meant or expected to do. However, it is their duty to give clients all the options when it comes to writing a Will. Charitable giving isn’t always a topic that comes naturally to advisers, but the good news is that things have been changing.
Over the years, more and more advisers are raising the issue of charitable giving and record numbers are now talking about the tax benefits with clients. We have signed up over 1,100 solicitor firms and Will-writers as Remember A Charity campaign supporters, promoting the option of legacy giving to their clients. But there is still much more progress to be made and, despite the changes to IHT, we believe that – as a sector – we can build on this progress.
In a shared society, family, community and charity are inextricably linked. A Will can include all these and we – as a sector – need to come together to ensure that our collective voice is never lost; that charity is always part of any Will-planning discussions.
Find out more about Remember A Charity’s work with professional advisers and how to get involved.
Main image: Last Will and Testament – by ptnphoto on Shutterstock.com
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