Are we heading for a new Legacy Management Code of Conduct?

A new code would add a degree of professionalism to the duties charities perform when dealing with legacies and administering an estate, argues Tara McInnes

Tara McInnes
Tara McInnes

There’s been no escaping the recent review of the self-regulating Code of Conduct for Fundraising by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations.

Bringing this Code into the spotlight means there’s now every chance of scrutiny over the way legacies, left to charities in wills, are managed.

Within the existing Code of Conduct for Fundraising there is a small section for legacy fundraising. In September at the Institute of Fundraising’s conference, Chris Millward for the Institute of Legacy Management (ILM) said that the ILM will be working with the Institute of Fundraising (IOF) to improve the existing Code and guidance on legacy management and administration of estates.

So what would such a Code contain and is it even necessary given some guidance already exists within the IOF Code?

Currently there is no real process in place to resolve complaints relating to legacy matters other than those within the IOF Code. As a standard, most codes focus on increased communication. In this case, it will likely be with potential legatees so if there are any complaints then these can be dealt with in accordance with the Code.

It’s likely the Code will focus on ways for charities to build better relationships with relatives of the legatee as well as provide a detailed provision for the resolution of complaints so both charities and legatees have greater clarity when resolving such matters.

In terms of the administration of estates, time limits, costs and visibility are likely to be included as costs are a major concern for beneficiaries and estates need to be wound up as soon as possible whilst complying with the protective time limits in relation to any potential claims. If costs are more transparent then there will be no surprises at the end.

Further, it’s highly possible that charities will have to maintain distance from the testator when drafting and preparing a Will to prevent risk of later allegations of fraud or undue influence over the preparation of the Will.

Under the existing Code, any complaints are dealt with by the Fundraising Standards Board. Alternatively, this role may be better dealt with by the ILM, as the organisation with the most experience of legacy training and management.

The need for such a Code is a positive step. It will add a degree of professionalism to the duties charities perform when dealing with legacies and administering an estate, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it unfolds and how much it will be welcomed.

Tara McInnes is senior associate in the dispute resolution and charity law team at Gardner Leader solicitors

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