This blog post was updated on 8 September 2022 as part of our ‘Remember a Charity Week’ campaign.
Our contentious wills and probate specialists here at Hugh James have been on “both sides of the fence”, acting for those contesting wills or claiming greater financial provision from an estate which leaves a legacy to charity, as well as for the charities defending these claims.
With inheritance disputes making the papers frequently, many are now thinking more carefully about their wills. That’s obviously a good thing but can lead to “paralysis by analysis”.
According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the UK has traditionally been one of the most generous countries in the world, and despite the challenges of the pandemic in recent years, we remain one of the top 10 countries across the globe who donate money to charity. A huge number of charities, large and small, now rely on legacies to continue offering their valuable services, locally, nationally and globally.
Rob Cope, Director at Remember a Charity explains:
“Gifts in Wills are incredibly important to UK charities; without this income charities would have to cut services and many would simply not exist.
“Two out of three guide dogs and six out of 10 life boat launches are paid for by gifts in Wills, as is over a third of Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work.”
In our experience, rarely, has the fact that a person has left a legacy to charity been the cause of any will or inheritance dispute. More often than not, there’s some underlying concern or cause which has prompted a claim and the fact that a charity has been named has been irrelevant to that concern or cause.
The most common grounds that we see for people challenging wills or inheritances are:
- lack of mental capacity;
- undue influence; and
- where a loved one, who was financially dependent on the deceased, has been left out of a will with little explanation and so is left having to seek more financial provision from the estate.
In those cases, we suspect most people would say that it’s right that steps are taken to ensure that any will really does reflect a person’s true wishes.
A professionally drawn-up will can help to avoid these claims by ensuring that your wishes are reflected in a way which not only supports the causes most important to you but also provides for your loved ones while potentially making use of the tax benefits available when leaving legacies to charity.