ew3This week is Trustees Week and an opportunity to highlight the fantastic work done by charity trustees.

Our specialist charity Legacies team works closely with many charity trustees and legacy officers to administer and maximise gifts left to charity in a will or trust. Elizabeth Ware, Chartered Legal Executive, discusses our top ten tips for charity trustees administering a gift. 

  1. Check the estate accounts. You are responsible for ensuring that the whole of the gift is applied towards the charity's objects. You should ask the executors or solicitors administering the donor's estate for a copy of the will and/or a set of estate accounts to confirm that your charity is receiving its full share. When you receive accounts, check whether all of the legacies under the will have been paid, whether executor expenses and legal fees are reasonable and whether Inheritance Tax has been correctly calculated and paid.
  2. Consider whether it is in your charity's interests to seek payment of a legacy in full. When dealing with any complex or contentious aspect of an estate, consider your duty to act in the best interests of the charity. This could apply to a claim against the estate or dealing with an executor that fails to respond to your correspondence. On some occasions it may be appropriate to stop pursuing payment of a legacy and on other occasions it may be appropriate to take a stronger stance. Every case is different. If your charity's legacy or reputation is at stake, consider obtaining independent legal advice and liaise with your fellow trustees, your in-house PR team or an external professional.
  3. Build a positive relationship with solicitors and lay executors and work together during the administration of the estate.
  4. Share your story. Ask the executors or family members why the donor chose your charity and share the ways in which the legacy will be used at your charity to benefit others.
  5. Take a sensitive approach when communicating with the donor's family. Take extra care and skill when communicating with executors and family members and avoid making typographical errors in letters. Be particularly sensitive when contacting lay executors around Christmas, birthdays and the anniversary of the donor's death.
  6. Consider potential tax savings. Be aware of tax savings to be had in the administration of an estate. Ask questions of professional executors and, if possible, keep on top of the ever changing law in relation to Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax. Consider training sessions and seminars on these topics.
  7. Take steps to mitigate risk and have policies and guidelines in place for all legacy team members to follow. Consider data protection requirements that apply to your charity. If in doubt, seek legal advice from a solicitor and/or seek guidance from the Charity Commission.
  8. Check the paperwork. Ensure you are familiar with your charity's governing documents. If your charity has been appointed as an executor of a will, check that your documents provide the relevant authority to act.
  9. Think about charity land. Consider the law regarding the disposal of charity land and in particular the provisions of s.119 - s.123 Charities Act 2011.
  10. And finally... don’t forget to say thank you. Legacies in wills make a huge contribution to a charity's funds. Make sure you find a way to say thank you and then thank you again!

For more information on this and other Legacies and Trust issues please contact Elizabeth Ware, Chartered Legal Executive on +44 (0)1392 685311 or email elizabeth.ware@footanstey.com