Institute of Fundraising: Invalid wills may see good intentions going to waste

Theresa Dauncey, director of the Legacy Promotion Campaign

The Legacy Promotion Campaign has just celebrated its second anniversary, and the latest figures show that legacy income is on the increase.

However, the findings of a recently commissioned piece of independent research has given us cause for concern - it shows that nearly 30 per cent of people die without leaving a fully valid will. So, while more people are including a charity in their will, their good intentions may never be realised because the document has been badly written.

This research highlights a number of ways in which charities could lose out - from the will not being witnessed or signed correctly, to the misspelling of a charity name.

The value of advice

The bottom line is that potential problems can be avoided if you seek the advice of a professional when making a will. A badly written will may be difficult to spot, except by a trained eye, and the cost of solving a problem can far outweigh the cost of seeking professional advice.

Our research also shows that there is no official regulation of many will writers, and, therefore, minimal recourse if something goes wrong.

We are not saying that all will writers are bad, simply that people should take the same care as they would when buying other services.

If you were planning some home improvements you would want to check that the workers had appropriate qualifications. So why is it that when it comes to drafting a will - possibly one of the most important documents you will ever write - people look for the quickest, cheapest option?

Growth area

While DIY will packs and internet will services still represent a minority market, there are indications that it is a major growth area. We at the Legacy Campaign believe we have a duty to ensure the people we are targeting with the Remember A Charity campaign are made aware of these issues, and the possible ramifications for their beneficiaries, including any charities if it all goes wrong.

On behalf of the entire charity sector, we strongly recommend that people seek the advice of a Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners member, or Law Society-registered solicitor - they will have specialised training and there is some recourse if something goes wrong.

By being aware of the potential pitfalls I hope people will make an informed choice that is right for them, and avoid complicated and costly mistakes.

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