Legacy update: Notification service and probate fees

Legacy update: Notification service and probate fees

Rob Cope | 7 March 2019

Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, gives an overview of what has happened in the world of legacies and the challenges to be faced over the coming months.

Legacy fundraising is facing some big changes over the coming months. While they undoubtedly present challenges to the legacy market and fundraising, we also believe that they present opportunities to better support gifts in Wills.

New notification service

HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) recently served notice on the current legacy notification service provider, Smee & Ford. The existing contract with Smee & Ford will end on 31 July 2019, which means that a new service must be put in place beyond that date.

HMCTS are very conscious of the important part that legacies play in funding essential charitable work across the country. More than 122,000 charitable bequests were contained in Wills in 2017 alone, and they are committed to ensuring a notification system continues.

Earlier this week I sat on HMCTS’ first working group, along with representatives from the ILM, NCVO and ACEVO. We discussed the vital importance of an interim solution that ensures the continuity of the existing service for legacy fundraising charities, as well as developing a better long-term approach that meets the needs of the sector.

An update on next steps will be shared with members in the coming weeks, with a key focus on ensuring that there is as little disruption as possible from these changes.

Probate fees hike

We were extremely disappointed that plans to hike probate fees were approved by Government, which come into force from April.

We have fought against this rise on behalf of our members, which could cost charities in the region of £10m annually in legacy income.

Under the plans, the current flat fee of £215 for any estate will change to a fee linked to the value of the estate, rising up to £6,000.

The new probate structure will see charitable Wills costing – in some cases – thousands of pounds more than they do currently and our concern is that this could deter people from leaving a donation in their Will.

Cancer Research UK have calculated that these changes will reduce their income by £600,000 per annum, which could pay for two years of trials of a new targeted prostate cancer drug.

The Institute of Fundraising and Remember A Charity, together with NCVO and the Institute of Legacy Management continue to urge the Ministry of Justice to review the changes. On Tuesday 12th March we followed up our initial letter to Lucy Frazer QC MP asking for a fairer cost that is proportionate to the work involved and includes a charitable exemption (read the letter here). We have also written to key MPs who oppose these changes and build upon the strong parliamentary opposition to the changes. 

Since then, the OBR have now classed the changes as a tax instead of a fee. This significant change could mean that any changes will need to go before a vote in the House of Commons. We hope that a vote in the Commons will defeat the changes altogether. 

We will continue to update our members on our activity and you can check for live updates on our rolling blog.

Note: This blog was edited on 18/03/2019 to include updates on probate fees.

Rob Cope, Director of Development and Remember A Charity



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