Legacy Loop – Webinar focuses on helping charities deal with legacy claims

January 26, 2024

How to manage potential claims against legacy gifts left to charities was the topic of January’s Legacy Loop webinar.

Led by IDR Law founder Martin Holdsworth and Head of Marketing, Lindsay Gibson, the session drew attendees including ILM members, Make a Will Online charity partners and members of IDR Law Network.

At its heart was a demonstration of IDR’s Charity Claim Checker tool, a simple-to-use online service that provides an instant assessment of the strength of claims against charities and signposts legacy professionals towards their next move.

“In the charity sector, we have found it is about de-risking or de-upsetting charities when they receive letters challenging a legacy that has been left to them,” said Martin. “This tool combines our contentious probate experience and legal tech knowledge, delivering a solution that gives an immediate ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ answer about the claim; produces a free of charge report that can be shared with senior managers and trustees; and offers guidance about what to do next.”

Working with charities of all sizes, Martin said some disputes the firm has dealt with have been as “low” as £50-£60,000, while the biggest was for £230 million.

Lindsay took the online audience through a dummy claim letter, where a former partner was asking for money from the deceased – aka ‘The Estate of Mr Moneybags’ – to show how legacy professionals can navigate the Claim Checker.

The step-by-step form asks questions such as ‘has probate been granted’, ‘what is the relationship to the deceased’ and ‘had financial provision been made for the claimant’ – the answers to which help determine if a claim has merit.

Martin continued: “Incidents of claims are on the rise. I used to see around 5% of estates subject to some kind of dispute and requiring our help. This has increased to about 8% and the number of incidents gets higher if charities are involved, as people are more likely to claim against what they see as an unseen or faceless charity, rather than a family member.

“In death, the only thing that speaks to the family is a will or a letter of wishes, and this is effectively a monologue from someone who is unable to explain why they made a particular decision. It isn’t always about the money – a family member may say ‘they clearly loved the charity more than me’ or ‘my parents didn’t love me because they have left their money to charity’ – there will be a lot of anger and emotion, and this is what makes inheritance dispute resolution so different to any other area of law.”

Typically, he said, reasons for increasing numbers of claims include the fact that the value of estates is now higher than ever; while blended families that work when both parents are alive, can expose ‘fracture lines’ after death, as children from previous relationships make their feelings known.

Favouring an approach that marries mediation and kindness with firmness, Martin says that out of 6,000 claims cases referred to IDR Law, 79% required nothing more than some initial guidance and suggestions on how to deal with the issue, whereas the remainder required more detailed legal advice.

He went on to say that the firm doesn’t engage in correspondence tennis, point scoring with legal opponents or unnecessarily aggressive letter writing, adding: “Mediation is our default position; we stand firm on issues where the position of the opposing party has no merit and it serves our client’s best objectives to take a stance.”

Asked by Oliver Asha, Make a Will Online’s Head of Legal, for any best practice tips for legacy professionals, Martin said the number one priority is to respond quickly to any potential claims.

Doing so can both stop an official claim being lodged and provide more options to work towards a sensible outcome for all parties.

One of the webinar attendees was Mike Flaherty, Legacy Officer, North Wales Wildlife Trust, who commented afterwards: “I find Make a Will Online’s monthly ‘Legacy Loop’ webinars to be an invaluable resource. There are so many varied legacy topics discussed with wonderful advice from top experts in the field – one always learns something new and I never miss it!

“The recent webinar on the introduction to the IDR Claim Checker was of particular interest and, indeed, timely as contested wills are very much on the rise. In fact, I found myself in such a position only a couple of days later and felt far more knowledgeable and verbally equipped because of it!”

For more details of the Claim Checker: Click here

If you missed the webinar, you can view it here: Click here



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