Legacies have played an increasingly important role in the fundraising efforts of many charities over the last few years as identified by the UK Legacy Fundraising Market 2019 report which noted that legacy donations had grown by around 22% in the UK the period 2012 – 2017. Therefore, it was not surprising when Legacy Foresight sounded the alarm during the first lockdown in 2020 when it predicted a fall of up to 25% in legacy income for affected charities. This gloomy prognosis was based on a number of factors, not least the administrative problems caused by the pandemic in processing probate applications as well as the technological and practical difficulties encountered by professionals trying to move all their work online. Coupled with the economic crisis, the expectation was that people would be less willing to leave legacies if they believed their families would suffer financially as a result – plus the assumption that the value of their assets would drop significantly.
Rise in legacy income predicted
Fortunately this pessimistic outlook has been revised to a more optimistic one. Legacy Foresight is now predicting a 37 - 50% rise in legacy income as laid out in its 2020-2025 Market Outlook report. Unsurprisingly, and sadly, one of the reasons for this anticipated rise is the increase in the death rate (predicted to be the highest for 100 years) and another is the gradual clearing of the backlog of probate applications and the ability of executors to start distributing estates. The problems at the probate office started some time ago when the prospect of increased probate fees were introduced in 2017 and again in 2019 (and then withdrawn in both instances) prompting a rush to get probate applications in before the deadlines. This created an administrative burden which was then exacerbated by the introduction of online applications last year – a system which is still struggling with teething issues despite its use now being mandatory for professional applicants.
Make a will to leave a legacy
Nonetheless, as Legacy Foresight notes, this backlog will ease and executors will be able to start distributing estates in accordance with the deceased’s wishes. And this brings me neatly to the importance of making a will if you have decided to leave a donation to those charitable causes that are dear to your heart. Putting the tax advantages of charitable giving via your will to one side, setting out your wishes clearly in a will is the only way you can guarantee that your chosen charities will receive any bequests you make. Of course, you could rely on your beneficiaries to donate on your behalf if you have made it clear that you wish to support a particular charity, such as a hospital or cancer care, but they will be under no obligation to do so.
Many charities are performing an essential service for many people at the moment and it is entirely natural to want to help them continue their good work when they have helped you. A properly drafted will makes this process very straightforward and makes your intentions crystal clear for the executors of your will. Last year, because of the practical difficulties in witnessing wills in person caused by the current pandemic, the government introduced a time-limited, legislative change to the Wills Act 1837. This has enabled wills to be witnessed and signed remotely through the use of technology when a visit to a solicitor’s office to complete the legalities is not possible. If physical witnessing is not feasible (although we do have a number of ways in which we can make this happen safely for all involved) we will discuss options for remote witnessing with you. If you would like more information about leaving a legacy in your will, please do not hesitate to get in touch.