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Smee & Ford to continue bequest notification service for at least 12 months

Smee & Ford to continue bequest notification service for at least 12 months

Smee & Ford will continue to provide legacy notifications to charities for at least the next 12 months, it has been agreed with the HM Courts & Tribunal Services, until new, long-term arrangements can be put in place.

The government announced in January that it was terminating its existing arrangement with Smee & Ford. Since then, it has been working with the Institute of Legacy Management and other organisations on ensuring a smooth transition and workable interim arrangement.

While Smee & Ford will continue to provide the service for now, changes introduced by HMCTS will mean a fee increase. HMCTS has today (4 July) published an open letter from CEO Susan Acland-Hood, explaining that the Lord Chancellor has decided to amend a number of fees, including probate copy fees. These changes are due to come into force on 22 July 2019, and will mean that while the cost to anyone applying for a copy of an individual Will or grant will reduce as a result, Smee & Ford’s operating costs will increase from August as they will be obliged to pay the statutory fee for all Wills and grants.

According to the letter charities will be asked to pay more for each notification received but the service will then also include of a copy of the relevant Will itself.

In a statement, Smee & Ford said:

“Whilst the charges for English and Welsh named notifications will increase as a result of higher operating costs, we have endeavoured to keep these as low as possible whilst at the same time improving the service by providing copies of English and Welsh Wills alongside the charitable notifications, thus enhancing the information available to charities at the earliest opportunity. These changes will take effect in August.

“Over the past six months of uncertainty we have been encouraged by the strength of feeling about the service from the sector and the fantastic support from charities who value our work. We remain dedicated to continuing to provide a forum setting for charities to come together with us to discuss future improvements and how we can enable best practice with regards to legacy notifications and we are delighted to be able to continue to play our part in assisting charities to secure charitable gifts to fund their future work.”

HMCTS is to continue to work with the charity sector and others to design longer-term arrangements to support legacy notification. This will include a workshop with charity representatives from the steering group on this issue later this month.

Responding to the announcement, Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, said:

“Ensuring the continuity of a reliable Wills notification service is an absolute priority for the charity sector, so we would like to thank HMCTS for their collaborative approach to resolving this matter.

“The Will-writing environment is rapidly changing, which presents huge challenges and opportunities for good causes who rely on the public’s generosity of gifts in Wills. We look forward to continuing to work together with HMCTS and across government to ensure that any longer-term arrangements will build on these foundations and better support the needs of smaller charities and a wider range of causes.”

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.

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