Working with Charitable Beneficiaries | Today’s Wills and Probate


I read with interest Kate Johnson’s article at Wedlake Bell in Today’s Wills and Probate in which she sets out her position on charitable giving within wills.

The suggestion was made in the article that donations to charities should be made through a discretionary trust.

The reasoning behind this suggestion was that it stops disputes and saves executors from having to be so heavily accountable to charity recipients.

Charities employ legacy managers whose role is to ensure that the charity receives the correct amount from the estate. These Legacy Managers generally do a great job and are employed because charities know they deliver a positive return on investment and because they help ensure that supporters’ wishes are met.

For executors, it can sometimes be uncomfortable knowing that their work will be verified by a competent and experienced person, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the work of inheritance managers yields positive results.

While some practitioners may be apprehensive about dealing with charitable recipients, personally I welcome having a qualified inheritance manager involved as a second pair of eyes as they can sometimes identify opportunities to maximize the amount their organization receives. charitable, which is probably what the testator had originally planned by leaving such a gift in their will. .

This is not to say that inheritance managers help raise additional funds in all cases, it is simply that on occasion, inheritance managers are able to identify opportunities that would otherwise be missed. , especially if there are non-professional executors who choose to administer the estate themselves without the help of legal support.

If donations to charities are set up behind the curtain of a discretionary trust, then legacy managers are less able to use their knowledge and experience to help provide so much support to executors.

Also, in my opinion, it is not strictly correct to say that charities cannot hold executors to account. As trustees, a duty is owed to the beneficiaries of the trust and once these beneficiaries are chosen, they have every right to request a break in the administration of the estate or the funds involved. While administrators have more power to refuse to provide such documentation, it may suggest that there is something wrong and could in fact lead to more argument and litigation.

While there are many good reasons to create and use discretionary trusts in a will, using one just because I didn’t want to be accountable to beneficiaries seems like a missed opportunity to build better relationships with others. qualified professionals.

I believe that when it comes to estates and indeed in all areas of law in which lawyers for private clients operate, we never stop learning, improving and developing our skills. We must continue to raise the standards in our industry and in ourselves and working with qualified charity professionals and wealth managers is one way to achieve this.

It is wonderful that each year more and more people trust charities whose wills have large donations. Currently, more than one in six wills submitted for probate contain a charitable donation and it is expected that £ 3.4 billion will be received by UK charities as wills in 2021. This is a huge statement of the trust people have in charities at a time when people’s trust in large organizations is declining.

Accordingly, my view is that as lawyers for private clients we should welcome their involvement and contribution and I have found that if you involve the estate manager in the administration from the start, you can have a truly constructive relationship and maximize succession for the benefit of all.

Michael Culver is President of Solicitors for the Elderly and Partner at Bolt Burdon Solicitors

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