At the start of last year HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) announced that its arrangement with Smee & Ford would be terminated. Smee & Ford, a private company, had previously offered a paid-for bequest notification service to charities however, after reviewing the arrangements, HMCTS found that these were “not consistent with the department’s legal duties”.
Then in July 2019 HMCTS announced that, following the end of the contractual arrangements with Smee & Ford, the company would continue to notify charities of bequests in wills for at least 12 months. Charities are charged more under this interim arrangement because from August 2019, Smee & Ford are obliged to pay a statutory fee for all wills and grants which increases the company’s operating costs. However, this does mean that charities are provided with a copy of the relevant will itself as opposed to a simple notification.
Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HMCTS has acknowledged the “value to charities of receiving early notification of bequests left in wills” and it is hoped that a sustainable arrangement can be found to provide such a service to charities. Smee & Ford continues to notify charities of bequests in wills under the interim arrangements but after a year of great uncertainty, an announcement is expected later this year outlining the longer-term arrangements to support legacy notification. For now, we must wait and see.