…but safeguards needed, says Remember A Charity

by Melanie May for fundraising.co.uk

Charity consortium Remember A Charity has welcomed proposals for electronic and video Wills in its submission to the Law Commission’s consultation, but warns that legacy giving must be safeguarded.

The Law Commission’s consultation on Wills closes today (10 November). In its submission, Remember A Charity says that while introducing electronic and video Wills will have the welcome benefit of easing the Will-making process for many, this must be balanced with added safeguards to protect the public and minimise the risk of dispute. It supports the development of electronic and video Wills from regulated providers, and recommends a centralised national Wills storage system among a range of measures to modernise the current framework.

Rob Cope, Director of Remember A Charity, said:

“If the legal profession gets the balance right, this overhaul of Will-writing could be crucial for growing charitable legacies. Introducing electronic and video as a means particularly for those who can no longer write or visit a solicitor’s office is certainly welcome. But we need to be mindful that relaxing the laws around what makes a Will legally valid could create uncertainty and increase the scope for legacy disputes. This means having more accessible, regulated Will-writing opportunities, while ensuring appropriate checks are in place to test mental capacity and protect against undue influence.

“With contested Wills on the rise, charities are keen to avoid the emotional, financial and reputational costs associated with inheritance disputes, defending donors’ wishes and their own legal obligation for funds allocated to them. We are keen to ensure that the new system provides greater protection for the public and minimises the scope for conflict between charities and any other potential recipients.”

In addition, with an estimated 4 in 10 people currently dying without a Will, Remember A Charity’s consultation submission is also encouraging a public campaign to tackle intestacy.

Institute of Legacy Management response to consultation

The Institute of Legacy Management has also raised concerns that the Law Commission’s consultation on Wills fails to pay sufficient attention to the increasing impact of technology on Will making.

In its response to the consultation, the Institute of Legacy Management said the growing trend towards writing Wills through the use of technology was already affecting the probate process, but that the consultation failed to acknowledge this, and the issues it may cause.

Chris Millward, Chief Executive of the Institute of Legacy Management, said:

“Our members are already seeing the consequences of Wills made online, and as we become more reliant on technology, this is likely to increase. There is a risk of badly drawn up Wills resulting in donors’ final wishes being frustrated, and failing, meaning charities and their beneficiaries miss out on vital support. The introduction of fully electronic Wills would complicate the process further.

“The law needs to catch up quicker with the changing way people are writing Wills. We can embrace technology while retaining essential safeguards and standards to make sure such Wills are legally robust and vulnerable people are protected. Tighter regulation and standardisation of online Will-writing platforms would help achieve this.”

Posted by Melanie May on UKFundraising.co.uk