Promoting legacies – how effective is your website?

charities newsbrief spring 2015 thumbnailLegacies are a valuable source of income, so keeping your website regularly updated to give clear and concise information for potential donors is essential. We are regularly asked to give guidance on such sites from a legal perspective, but frequently need to refer to websites ourselves for clients who have told us that they wish to leave a gift to a particular organisation in their Will.

Some common threads become readily apparent as to how they can be used to best effect. There are many out there and so it is worth looking at some of them to compare from time to time. It is never worth reinventing the wheel but some points can be very obvious, others less so.

Explaining the different types of gift

From our experience, most clients who come through the door wanting to make a Will have a fair idea which charities they want to leave money to. Failing that, they will at least know the general area they wish to benefit. Nobody wants to read too much material so don’t make the literature too long! What they want is some salient facts and some encouragement that the gift they make will be put to good use.
It is a good idea, therefore, to set out the different types of gift that can be made in a Will.

Many sites give suggested wording. Short draft clauses are preferable because however tempting, it is usually advisable for people to have the Will drawn up professionally to minimise mistakes which will otherwise only come to light when it is too late and which can prove very costly to nobody’s advantage. Most people’s affairs nowadays tend to be morecomplicated than they were even a few years ago.
Increasingly, overseas issues are coming to the fore and expensive mistakes can be made
if the wrong message is given. It is a good idea however to explain that a legacy can take the form either of a straightforward cash sum or a gift of something in kind, for example shares or a property or a share of the estate as a whole – a residuary gift.

General or restrictive purposes?

It is of course much easier for a legacy to be left for “general purposes”. This means that you can then use it wherever the need is greatest at the time the legacy is paid to you, remembering of course that this could be many years after the Will is made.
However, particularly for larger gifts, the donor may well have their own ideas as to where they would like the money to be spent. If you do have certain projects that can be set out as potential areas for which funds might be welcome then that may encourage someone to leave money to you. However, it is worth stressing that it is best for both parties if you can first discuss with them what might work best and this way guide them if at all possible to include words to the effect that their wishes are not binding on you to use the money in this way if that is no longer practical to avoid future problems. Clearly you will want to reassure them that the organisation will always abide by their wishes wherever possible, but restricted funds with no such discretion can be very problematic. Communication is key here to avoid misunderstandings that may come back to haunt you years later.

Tax as a gift

Computer gift imageDo stress the tax advantages of making a gift to charity. That is a big incentive for a lot of people! Some simple examples may highlight the benefits. Remember that it is a complex area so you may need to take guidance as to how you explain this.

Do also remember that anyone now leaving a minimum of 10% of their taxable estate to charity can qualify for a reduced rate of inheritance tax from its normal level of 40% down to 36%.
That in itself is less than straightforward in practice, but a table showing some simple examples of this again may have more powers of persuasion than you think. The Will drafter’s reference point If people are having their Will drawn up professionally, it is always helpful for those drafting the Will to have a reference point where the full name of the charity is given including the charitable registration number and any other wording that may be particularly relevant. At the same time, this
reduces mistakes that again can be potentially costly in the future.

Give examples

Some examples of how gifts have been enjoyed in the past always help. Remember to give a range too, not just the large bequests but also some smaller ones because all gifts are welcome and those who can only afford to make a small gift may be put off otherwise feeling that their gift won’t be worth your while. If you have a remembrance book, or some other way of recording thanks to loved ones, this is also something which you should stress and which gives comfort to the family.

Simplify the process

A straightforward guide avoiding jargon is what most people want to see. Remember, they want to know how easy it is to make a gift to you in their Will, what benefits can be achieved from it and how to go about it. Whilst the website is the most immediate source of information nowadays, do also remember that alot of Wills are made by those of more advanced years who may not have a computer, so a legacy leaflet incorporating the same material is also still important to ensure you reach out to all those who may wish to leave something to you in their Will.

Finally, don’t forget to say thank you! It is very simple but it reinforces the message that not only are gifts important to you to continue the vital work you do, but that any gift received by you is gratefully appreciated.

Click here to read our newsbrief in full.

Continue reading other articles: Charities and Social enterprise round up, Top tips for collaborations, Client spotlight – following the journey of Balance CIC, Competition Law – what do you need to know? Minimum wage – counting the cost for charities and Promoting legacies – how effective is your website?