Charities show a will to increase legacy income

By Jessica Elgot, June 16, 2011
Follow Jessica on Twitter
Overseas aid: JNF runs legacy tours to Israel to let supporters see where their money will go

Overseas aid: JNF runs legacy tours to Israel to let supporters see where their money will go

Communal organisations are striving to capitalise on government legislation encouraging people to leave charitable legacies.

Just 17 per cent of Britons currently make a charitable allowance in their estates. The hope is the number will increase following George Osborne's Budget announcement of an inheritance tax cut from 40 to 36 per cent for anyone leaving at least 10 per cent of their estate to charity.

The JNF is particularly dependent on legacies, which at around £3 million annually, account for up to 60 per cent of its income. Jewish Care and Norwood are less reliant, but still attract considerable sums.

"Ten per cent of our income comes from legacies," reported Jewish Care chief executive Simon Morris. "We need up to £4 million a year to come in so we can balance our books - it's vital. We need to make people more aware of the value of giving a legacy, so what the government is doing is very welcome. If we lost our legacy income tomorrow, we would have to seriously review our services."

Harvey Bratt and Carolyn Addleman

Harvey Bratt and Carolyn Addleman

Legacies also account for 10 per cent of Norwood's income and the charity is reviewing its legacies programme in the light of the new incentive.

In Leeds, Jewish Welfare Board chief executive Rebecca Weinberg described legacy revenue as "crucial to our survival", although it was impossible to predict.

"For this reason, we don't budget for legacies," she explained. "Whilst our annual budget may project an anticipated deficit, it does not reflect any legacy income. Thus any legacy income is viewed as a windfall and enables us to offset any shortfall."

KKL, the JNF's legacies department, has traditionally provided a further incentive by drawing up wills without charge in exchange for legacies to JNF. At the Leeds welfare board, Ms Weinberg said local solicitors offered free will writing services on behalf of the charity.

Solicitor Harvey Bratt, who heads the KKL department, feared the impact on its finances of greater longevity, with people spending more on their children, medical care and lifestyle and leaving less in their wills.

"We are seeing that people have less money. It will be affected even more in the future as people's pensions suffer. It all eats into the capital they would leave in a will."

Jewish Care's Mr Morris highlighted national research showing a downward trend in legacy giving. "But we can afford for people to give less if more people give," he pointed out. "You should encourage people to give a percentage."

Many of KKL's clients have no children or are cut off from their families and turn to the charity to not only help them to make wills, but also to organise care and arrange funerals.

As clients get older, more of Mr Bratt and legal executive Carolyn Addleman's work has become pastoral, assuming the practical role a child would take on for elderly parents. "It's evolved to suit what's happening in the world," Ms Addleman said. "Ten or 15 years ago, we wouldn't have been so involved in arranging care."

Mr Bratt added that "a lot of the people we deal with have no family. Up until 10 years ago, many were Holocaust survivors. Now it might be people who have never married, or couples who had no children, or civil partners with no children.They don't know who to turn to. We have the Jewish factor as well. We arrange funerals, tombstones, perhaps burial in Israel, or just people to say kaddish.

"It's amazing and quite sad how many come through our doors who don't have children or grandchildren and who are very worried about who will do these things for them. Their needs increase exponentially in their 80s and 90s. Many prefer to stay in their own home."

Ms Addleman cited the case of a man living alone after his mother died. "We had to sell the property, buy a new one, move him in and hold his hand along the process. We don't take the role as carer, but we are the driver in things."

Although the free legal service and pastoral care are a big pull, Mr Bratt claims most people are interested in leaving money anyway. "It's about giving support for Israel. That's the prime motivator. We take clients on a legacy mission to Israel every year to show them projects they will be leaving money to."

WHY I AM LEAVING MONEY TO JNF

Marie Sherrett, 98, lives in Belgravia. She is leaving money to JNF and KKL recently helped her to change her will.

"I've always wanted to give money away to charity," she says. "As long as people who deserve it get it, then I don't mind who it goes to.

"I first heard about KKL when my friend Olga died, around three years ago. She left me a ring in her will and Carolyn Addleman from KKL rang me up to discuss how to get it to me. She came round to visit and told me about writing a will. I'd made out my will already, but it was out of date."

Born in Prague, she fled to Paris before the war and later moved to England. "I lived in America for more than 20 years with my husband. I moved back here when he died but I still have property in San Francisco.

"I've been back in London for 20 years but I never changed my will from dollars into sterling.

"We got chatting and Carolyn advised me that there might be some problems with it being in a different currency," she explains.

"I have been married twice but I don't have any children, just distant relations. I was certain who I wanted my money to go to but it was helpful to have it altered.

"I can manage very well on my own at the moment. I have a housekeeper who is very important to me, who cooks and cleans the flat.

"But otherwise I can manage by myself - I am still in good health.

"KKL invite me to lots of social events, which I appreciate, even though it's hard for me to get to them."

    Last updated: 3:23pm, June 16 2011