A perceived decline in trust between charities and solicitors could have an extremely harmful effect on legacy fundraising, according to Chris Millward, chief executive of the Institute of Legacy Management.
Speaking at the annual ILM conference in London on Friday, Millward, who became head of the membership body last year, said the ILM had been in talks with the legacy consortium Remember A Charity about tackling what appeared to be a decline in trust between charities and solicitors.
"We hear a lot of stories about overly zealous legacy administrators upsetting solicitors and intransigent and tardy solicitors upsetting legacy cases," Millward said. "I’d like to get to the bottom of this because, if that’s true, there could be a real impact on long-term legacy giving."
Millward said that because solicitors were responsible for writing 60 to 70 per cent of wills in the UK, they were the party most able to influence members of the public to leave charitable bequests.
"If we’re turning them off through our behaviour, be that perceived or real, then we’ve got a problem," he said. "I want to understand if trust is really declining or not and, if it is, what we can do to address it."
If the situation was allowed to fester and no action was taken, it could do "huge harm" to the legacies sector, he said.
Millward said at the event that the ILM was forming a working group to develop its own code of practice for legacy administrators. He said this would be less prescriptive than the Code of Fundraising Practice, which is in the process of being transferred from the Institute of Fundraising to the new Fundraising Regulator.
Asked what the code would consist of, Millward said this would be determined by the ILM’s members and should take shape within the next four to five months.
The news comes after the IoF announced last September – before the outcome of the Etherington review was known – that it would work with the ILM to develop the Code of Fundraising Practice to include extra guidance on how estates are administered.
Millward told Third Sector that this had not happened because it was decided after the Etherington review that the IoF should be stripped of its responsibility for the code.
He said he now intended to work with the new Fundraising Regulator on any additions to the code relating to legacy fundraising.
But Stephen Dunmore, who also spoke at Friday’s event, indicated that much of the legacy management sector did not fall under the Fundraising Regulator’s remit, making it seem unlikely that many such changes would be made.