Parliamentary inquiry calls for renewed wills push in bid to increase charitable giving

Parliament: prompting clients trebles number of legacies

A parliamentary inquiry has called for a push to encourage people to make wills and that will-writers should inform all clients that they are able to leave money to charity in them.

The cross-party report, Creating an age of giving, said that the £2.05bn left to charities in wills represents 5% of their total income – but only 6% of people make a bequest to charity, despite inheritance tax changes that encourage greater giving.

However, it also found “positive trends that bode well for an increase in legacy giving”, with the percentage of will-writers who never prompt about charity falling from 22% in 2011 to 10% in 2013. The number who always do is also on the up.

The inquiry, which was supported by the Charities Aid Foundation, was co-chaired by former Labour cabinet minister David Blunkett, Conservative MP Andrew Percy and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler.

They said: “One of the problems that accounts for relatively low levels of legacy giving is that at present two-thirds of adults do not have a will, and this is particularly true amongst the under-50s.

“Action must be taken to encourage more people to write a will, and it is this will writing process that needs to be used to encourage greater legacy giving. Other barriers include a lack of awareness, and the fact that legacy giving has not yet become a social norm.”

The report said research carried out by the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team discovered that prompting a person making a will about the possibility of leaving a legacy trebled the number of people choosing to give in this way.

It continued: “The personal approach uncovered by the behavioural insights team suggests that using the conversation a person has with their solicitor when writing a will to introduce them to legacy giving could translate to great growth in legacy giving.

Once established, this could be broadened to include other methods of writing a will to reach out to a greater segment of the population. Not only would this encourage will writers and charities to work closely together in encouraging more people to leave a will, but it would give people the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy to society.

“We recommend that will makers should inform clients that they are able to use their will to leave a legacy to charity, providing information about how legacies work in practice and an explanation of the taxation implications that can be induced when leaving a legacy.”

All IPW members recognise the importance of charitable giving and are trained from the outset to discuss with their clients the advantages of leaving a legacy in their will.

Sally Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW), welcomed the recommendation, which she said endorsed the training the institute provides. “IPW members are provided with model instruction-taking forms that include reference to legacy giving and this acts as a prompt to our members when they are taking instructions from their clients.

“The training that all of our new members receive also includes the importance, and tax implications, of charitable giving in a will.”


    Readers Comments

  • The idea of government getting behind any campaign to increase consumer awareness in the need to make a will is to be supported and applauded.
    All will writers are aware of the importance of the will, and in particular the power for individuals to leave a legacy in their will and the good that can be ultimately achieved.
    However for over twenty years charities, on mass, have shunned the services and approaches of organisations such as the Society of Will Writers (SWW) to work with them in promoting legacy giving via the will. Members of the SWW write around 200,000 wills a year, this an opportunity that has been missed by the charities, preferring the services of solicitors when it comes to making a referral.
    A survey in 2009 carried out by the LSB’s Consumer Panel showed that wills produced by professional will writers were every bit as good and effective as those produced by solicitors and overall I would suggest that a professional will writer and member of the SWW would produce a better will and have far more time to talk to clients about their options than most solicitors as we meet clients in the comfort and privacy of their own home and ‘not on the clock’. We are after all professionals and not general practitioners.
    Two years ago the SWW chose CAF as its preferred charity partner because of their approach to charity giving.
    The number of people who don’t have a valid will has dropped in 20 years from around 75% to nearer 60% and that is due largely to the efforts of the will writing profession.
    Charities spend millions on advertising each year, they also give away annually countless numbers of free wills through solicitors to people who can a) afford a solicitor; and b) afford to make a will; wasting millions of pounds of funds raised by little old ladies outside supermarkets in all weathers; and by people who through their own endeavours gain sponsorship for their efforts.
    They could just as easily and more cost effectively raise funds and support by working with the Society of Will Writers and its members. And I invite any charity who is interested to contact me personally to meet with me and discuss with us how our 2000 members can work together both nationally and locally.
    As a final thought, it might also be that the general public are getting a little “charity weary” when it comes to simply giving to charity and any charity that can afford to, constantly bombarding viewers asking for set amounts each month!
    So a personal approach would work better and be their way forward, I’m not sure it needed a Parliamentary enquiry to come to this conclusion other than to state what is in my opinion “the b******* obvious”.
    We look forward with interest to what the government plans to do, if anything, to raise awareness!
    Brian W McMillan
    Director General
    The Society of Will Writers

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