The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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6 questions to ask when selecting a Will-writing partner for your charity

Pairing up with the right Will-writing provider can help charities to make it easier for the public to write their Will and encourage legacy donations.  But, in an unregulated market, how can charities choose the right partner; one that not only meets their needs but also those of their supporters?

The Will-writing market has expanded rapidly in recent years with more providers offering a diverse range of services across different delivery channels. This presents a huge opportunity for charities looking to extend their reach among potential supporters as well as some new challenges.  

A strong charity partnership with a Will-writing provider can raise the profile of the charity, encourage legacy donations and make it easier for supporters to write their Will. Above all, it should provide a trusted and secure service, protecting supportersí wishes and estate beneficiaries alike.

But the challenge is that itís not always easy for charities (and the public) to determine how each service differs. At one end of the spectrum, there are solicitors offering one-to-one support and guidance, talking through the various options and giving detailed legal counsel, while at the other, there are standardised Will-writing services, which are highly accessible and often less costly, but unlikely to meet every supporterís needs.

With charitiesí increased reliance on legacy income, rapid growth in Will providers and contested estates, it has never been more important that charities offering Will-writing services work with a suitable partner.

So, what are the key questions you should ask when youíre setting up a partnership?

What does the service include and at what cost?

Choosing a provider that meets your needs is often a case of striking a balance between how accessible and comprehensive you want that service to be. For example, there can be many advantages in online services, making it quick, easy and cheap for people to complete their Will, but it may not provide the sufficient legal guidance and will almost certainly not be suited for those with more complex estates. Make sure you establish what the service covers and at what cost. Remember to check if this includes secure Will storage facilities or whether this comes at an additional (often annual) cost.

Are fully qualified legal professionals involved in the Will-writing service?

Many people assume that all Will-writing services include legal advice, but that isnít always the case and itís important to check. Ultimately, a Will that lacks rigour is more likely to be disputed. Be sure to ask whether qualified legal professionals are involved and at what level. Is this part of the core offering or will it mean additional cost? Some providers will not be able to cater for the most complex estates.

What processes are in place to protect supporters and ensure their wishes are met?

While people can write a Will at any age and any time of life, the demographic of people planning their estate is tipped towards older people, where vulnerabilities such as dementia, hearing and sight loss can be that much more prevalent. For legacy fundraising, itís crucial that we consider how we can identify individuals that may not have mental capacity to write their Will and how to provide protection against the undue influence of others. This can be more difficult to tackle for Will-writing services that exclude a face-to-face element, although some of these providers introduced provisions to help them identify concerns about mental capacity.

How will the Will-writing firm encourage clients to consider legacy giving?

While you need to find a suitable partner that makes it easy for supporters to write their Will, youíll also want to ensure that they are promoting your charity and the broader concept of legacy giving to their full client base. Ask them how they will promote this message to their clients and what prompts they use during the Will-writing process. What will they to increase visibility around your charity?

What are the risks and opportunities?

As with any commercial partnership, itís important to identify what offering best suits your needs and those of your supporter base, enabling you to extend your reach to supporters and offer a reliable and accessible Will-writing service to supporters. At the same time, you need to ensure that the partnership will not expose your supporters, your reputation or brand to undue levels of risk. Carefully evaluate the pros and cons, making sure you understand how each service is regulated and what insurance is in place. Check the providerís terms and conditions, which should clearly tell you how the charity and your supporters are protected if anything goes wrong.

How will you evaluate the success?

It is important to be able to reflect on the partnership and get insight on whatís working well and where things could be improved. The level of data that partners can provide you with will vary hugely.  Ask providers how they will report back to you, what information they can give, how often and how they verify their data. 

For more information, see Remember A Charityís guidance and directory on Choosing A Will-Writing Partner: https://www.rememberacharity.org.uk/choosing-will-writing-partner/

Written by Marta Montague, Head of Development at Remember A Charity and the Institute of Fundraising

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