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Solicitors Play Vital Role in Charitable Bequests

Solicitors Play Vital Role in Charitable Bequests

Charitable Bequests in a will

New research shows that solicitors play a crucial role in helping clients leave money to charity in their wills.

The two-year study by the Behavioural Insights Team and the University of Bristol sound that clients who are told that many other individuals leave money to charity in their wills are 40% more likely to do so themselves.

The research was commissioned by Remember A Charity, an organisation formed of more than 160 UK charities that encourages people to think about leaving a gift in their will.

The report, Legacy Giving and Behavioural Insights, says researchers discovered that normalising charitable legacies by communicating that this was something others did was the approach most likely to encourage people to leave legacies. This led to a 40% increase in the number of first-time testators choosing to include charities in their wills, compared with a control group, according to the research.

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said: "The role of legal professionals is crucial in making clients aware of all the opportunities they might want to consider when writing a will . . . Many [people] simply don’t realise that legacy giving is an option for them; that they can provide for family and friends and still have the opportunity of including a charity if they wish to do so."

Many want solicitors to raise issue of bequest

The researchers also asked people on their views about solicitors raising the matter of leaving money to charity. The study found that over two-thirds (69%)of people indicated that they would be happy for their solicitor to raise the issue, while nearly half of respondents (46%) thought a solicitor had ‘a duty’ to raise the option of giving to charity when discussing a will.

The study also discovered a link between a client’s likelihood of including a charity in their will and the “language legal professionals use” around the issue. It concluded that “how solicitors raise the charitable option can play a major role in legacy giving”.

Michael Sanders, head of research, evaluation and social action at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: “We already know that mentioning legacy giving as part of the will writing process can have a significant impact on giving levels, but the evidence from these new trials indicates that specific language used in conversations can make a real difference to the way that people respond in a face to face setting.”

Robert Bourns, president of the Law Society, said in response to the report's findings: ‘Writing a will is an important step in ensuring that the people, and causes, we have cared about will be properly looked after when we pass away. Solicitors have a vital role to play in this process, using our legal knowledge and experience to give our clients the reassurance that their wishes will be properly carried out.’

Social norm prompt particularly effective among those writing their first will

Researchers highlighted that normalising charitable legacies by communicating that this was something others did was an approach that is most effective for those who are writing their first will.

"The social norms intervention is particularly effective for participants who are receiving a free will or who are writing a will for the first time, increasing donation rates by 40% . . . This is consistent with the hypothesis that social norms are useful to clients who are perhaps less experienced in the will-writing process," says the report.

The study found that so-called “posthumous benefit framing,” where solicitors focused on the good work a charity can do with a person’s money after they’ve died, was “not . . . as effective” as other framing methods.

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