Delays in communication from HM Revenue & Customs are slowing down the process by which charities access legacy donations and are affecting their financial planning, according to the Institute of Legacy Management.
Estates left by a deceased person must be checked by HMRC to see if any outstanding taxes are owed on the estate before it can be divided out among the people or organisations named in the will.
In a statement released today, the ILM said HMRC had recently warned the legacy consortium that this processing of estates would take six to eight weeks longer than normal.
But it said that several ILM members had reported delays of up to six months.
The ILM said the delays had been "disruptive" for the charities waiting to access legacy donations and urged HMRC to explain what was causing the problem.
In its statement, the ILM said the delays could have been caused by a backlog created when the Ministry of Justice announced plans in March to increase probate fees, which led executors to rush to submit claims before any fees were introduced. The plan to increase fees was then shelved before the general election in June.
Chris Millward, chief executive of the ILM, said: "The current delays are having an impact on charities’ ability to honour generous donors’ final wishes in a timely manner.
"Charities need to know when they can expect to receive these donations to be able to plan how the money will be used to support beneficiaries. If a charity has committed money to a project because they reasonably expected a donation to be received, delays can be really disruptive and stop services being provided where they are needed."
He said charitable gifts in wills were worth more than £2.5bn a year to charities.
"We’re asking HMRC to provide clarity on what is causing these delays and when they will be resolved," he said.
"We’re keen to open up a channel of communication with HMRC to enable us to help legacy administrators better understand the issues HMRC is facing."
An HMRC spokesman said: "Most cases are processed within our target times, but more complex cases might take longer. We have allocated more resources to this area recently and our service is improving."