24 June 2019 | Comment | Article by Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu
On 29 May 2019, the Chief Executive of the Her Majesty Court and Tribunal Service (“HMCTS”), Susan Acland-Hood, wrote to the working group of charity bodies to reassure their members that the “interim arrangement” will be operational by late July 2019.
Individuals and charitable institutions will be all be too aware that the current HMCTS arrangements with Smee & Ford, providing a notification of bequests left to them in wills, is due to stop at the end of July 2019. The working group has been engaging with HMCTS, with a view to securing a seamless transition in July 2019. Given the uncertainty and lack of clarity regarding the “interim measure”, HMCTS’s letter presented a good opportunity to reassure the sector and provide clarity.
The importance of the legacy notification service to charities is clearly at the forefront of HMCTS’s mind, specifically as they note its significance to “financial management and reporting, and its wider role in fraud prevention and awareness raising with executors”. However, while encouraging, no substantive detail has been provided. Seemingly, this has again been delayed, with further updates expected at the forthcoming steering group meeting on 18 June 2019.
The absence of any detail has led Christina Blacklaws, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, to comment “it’s a cause for concern that the government has not yet shared details about the new charitable legacy notification service, particularly when this is due to be implemented next month.”
The importance of the Smee & Ford notification system cannot be underestimated to charities. HMCTS figures show that 122,000 charitable bequests were made in 2017 alone. Smee & Ford read around 5,000 wills every week, before alerting charities of gifts.
Tune in for our forthcoming podcast on this issue, which will land later this summer, hopefully coinciding with the final announcement regarding the interim notification system, its impact upon the charity sector and long-term solution.
Update as of 5 July 2019
Roman Kubiak and Vlad Macdonald-Munteanu recently recorded a charities podcast on the update about the bequest notification service from Smee & Ford. Tune in to the podcast to find out more.