'Watch out, you might be talking to journalists', legacy administrators warned

Undercover journalists might be operating in your area
Undercover journalists might be operating in your area

Charity legacy administrators should watch out for investigative journalists trying to find examples of bad practice in their profession, delegates at the Institute of Legacy Management conference heard today.

Speaking at the annual event in London this morning, Jane Jales, legacy manager at the Salvation Army, said legacy administrators needed to show sensitivity when dealing with the executors of wills because she suspected undercover journalists were operating in the sector.

"This is the next thing that’s coming," she said. "I totally believe there are some investigative journalists out there working on what we do with these poor bereaved people. So as a profession, our reputations are resting on the sensitivity we must have in our communication with professional executors and lay executors."

Jales, who manages the Salvation Army’s six-person legacy administration team, described the scrutiny the charity sector had been under in the past year as "horrendous".

"Sunday mornings aren’t that great when The Mail on Sunday pulls out its huge banner headlines about charities – it’s absolutely horrible," she said.

But she said the scrutiny indicated that legacy managers could not simply pay lip service to professionalism and claim they were "all very kind and helpful to each other" when in many cases there was a lack of cooperation between the charities named on a will.

Where multiple charities were named, she said, the protocol should be that a lead charity be appointed to manage the legacy administration process, which ought to be the charity that is named first on the will. She said this would save time and money and stop each charity from "bombarding" executors with communications.

She recommended that legacy managers who received suspicious external emails asking for information should respond in a polite and sympathetic manner but be aware that they could be dealing with an undercover journalist.

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