“Prevention is better than cure”

Despite what is said above, a good starting point that gives us at least a decent chance of avoiding problems is to make sure that all our communications are beyond reproach. That will mean checking (sometimes double-checking) their tone as well as their content. What may look like a perfectly decent request or response as we write it may, on re-reading, show itself to be capable being interpreted as offensive. It may contain facts (even ones we know to be true) that are open to being challenged or misinterpreted 

This is especially so when we are writing to someone who is still grieving the death of the legator. It may also be that someone we write to is feeling a little hostile towards us because we were left more in their godmother’s Will than they were, or because  we wrote (ever so politely of course) to ask for a bit of information following a Grant of Probate that they have been sitting on for 15 months. 

Our words are very powerful and so it is always worth taking that step back (counting to 10 perhaps?) before sending something out. It may help, particularly when we have spotted signs that the relationship is becoming strained, to think ourselves into the shoes of the recipient and try to understand how our letter or email might be read. If this stage has been reached, it almost always helps to ask a trusted colleague to cast an eye over what we have written before we press “send”.

While still in the area of trying to prevent problems, it is worth spending time checking the wording of our standard letters and the time limits we set for our enquiry or review letters. Some problems could be avoided if we are able to do all we can to individualise our communications to reflect the fact that every case is unique. 

In addition, it is helpful to make sure the rest of our Legacy Administration processes are striking the right balance between ensuring we get what the legator intended us to get and avoiding unnecessary upset and adverse publicity. The ILM provides help and support on these matters on its website, and colleagues in other charities are always willing to share their practice if we ask.