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How Solicitors Play a Crucial Role in Normalising Charitable Gifts

The past few years have prompted a significant rise in the number of people looking to write their wills and plan the future course of their estates.

The number one reason for having a will is, of course, to ensure that your loved one’s interests are safeguarded – particularly their financial interests – and make certain that the promises you make in life are upheld after your death. Another reason, however, that is becoming increasingly common among will writers, is making charitable gifts – passing portions of your estate onto non-profits that mean something to you.

These donations are often larger than anything we are in a position to give in life, and knowing that we can have a profound impact on a charity that we hold close to our hearts is incredibly valuable.

Why are more people leaving legacies to charities?

In all likelihood, there is no one reason why more and more people are leaving significant donations to charity. The recent pandemic prompted many, many more individuals to confront the topic of unexpected illness and death head-on and consider whether their estates really were in the best possible shape to support those they care about after their deaths. During the height of the pandemic, the number of will enquiries increased by 76% in a single week – many among younger people who, historically, have delayed estate planning indefinitely.

For obvious reasons, those who had not put together a robust will with a solicitor were met with a resounding no. Without a comprehensive and expertly-informed will, nobody can feel safe in the knowledge that their estate will be sorted according to their wishes after their death.

By investing time and attention into estate planning, the subject of leaving money to charity arises naturally. The ability to have a truly profound mark on the world – even a small part of it – is a comfort, particularly in times of deep uncertainty and worry.

What role do solicitors play?

Solicitors are, of course, one of the cornerstones of a strong and reliable will. While ‘DIY’ will-writing services have gathered momentum as a result of the fact that they can be completed very quickly and from home, more and more people are becoming aware of their many (potentially devastating) flaws. Turning to experienced estate planning and will dispute solicitors routinely proves itself to be the only trustworthy option.

With a solicitor, a full conversation about estate planning – from inheritance tax implications to charitable donations – can be discussed, and the best path forward for their client decided on a much more holistic basis. The value charitable donations hold for reducing inheritance tax (thanks to their ability to reduce the value of the estate) poses a strong additional incentive.

Solicitors can help their clients decide on a specific purpose for their donation, giving them a lot more insight into the impact their estate will eventually have on the cause. This demands a good balance between stipulation and restriction, and really can’t be managed without expert help.

Interestingly, a two-year study completed in New Zealand found that the majority of people believe solicitors are duty-bound to broach the subject of charitable donations. While this is not the case, the simple fact of raising the topic can be enough to encourage clients to leave something behind for charity.