The Courts & Tribunal Service has announced that it is to set up a new alert system for charitable bequests and conclude its arrangement with Smee & Ford, which has provided a paid-for notification service to participating charities for several years.
An open letter was sent by Chief Executive Susan Acland-Hood to all affected charities to announce the change. The Courts & Tribunal Service said that while the arrangement with Smee & Ford was established in good faith, it has since found that it is not consistent with the department’s legal duties.
As such, it will be inviting charity representatives to help it shape a replacement. It will also be working with Smee & Ford to ensure as little disruption as possible arising out of these changes over a six month notice period, and it will also seek their views about options for a new arrangement.
Representatives of ACEVO, NCVO, the Institute of Fundraising, Remember A Charity, and the Institute of Legacy Management have all been invited to join a working group to bring together views of the sector with the aim of creating a new and sustainable arrangement that will continue to work for all those using the current service.
HMCTS Chief Executive, Susan Acland-Hood, said:
“I recognise the value to charities of receiving early notification of bequests left in wills and we are committed to working alongside the sector to establish a new, sustainable arrangement that works for everyone.
Our decision to end our current arrangement with Smee & Ford is no reflection on the service provided by them but comes as a result of an assessment of our legal position. We will continue to work closely with the company to seek to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible arising out of these changes over the next period.”
Smee & Ford also commented:
“We were informed yesterday of HMCTS’ decision to serve notice on our long-standing agreement to provide charities with legacy notification services, owing to the results of an assessment of their legal position.
“As the HMCTS statement confirms, this decision is no reflection on the services provided by Smee & Ford, and we will be continuing to provide notifications of every bequest left to charities until 31 July 2019. We will also be working with HMCTS to discuss future arrangements and we remain committed to providing the sector with these invaluable services in the longer term.
“We have received many messages of support this afternoon from the many charities who value our services and as always, we encourage feedback to drive further improvements both directly and via the channels relating to this review.”
Commenting on the news, Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, said:
“The current notification service is an essential tool for charities, giving them timely information on any forthcoming legacy gifts generously left by the public. It helps charities forecast legacy income, manage the administration of estates and plan how they spend those donations to make the world a better place. With legacy income generating £3 billion a year, this data is vital for the charity sector.”
“It’s reassuring to see that Government recognises how important this service is for the charity sector, that new arrangements will be drawn up and that the charity sector will have a key part in that. But next steps here will be critical.
“Remember A Charity has agreed to contribute to a working group to help shape the future service, ensuring that it continues to give fundraising charities the information they need and that we avoid delay in developing the replacement service, which could have a big knock-on impact on good causes.”
Remember A Charity will also be hosting a consultation discussion for members at its next forum on 26 February, delivered by a representative of HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
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