Charities have been denied donations worth £185 million thanks to issues in the probate system, according to an article on the Mail Online.

The delays in the system are thanks to an upgrade to the IT, which led to a backlog further exacerbated when applications flooded in as people tried to avoid proposed plans to increase the cost of probate by up to £6,000 on some estates. (This has since been abandoned.)

Families and solicitors have reported waiting more than 14 weeks to administer probate and distribute estates to the rightful beneficiaries—a process that should not usually take more than a month.

Charity cutbacks

According to the Mail Online article, the delay has led to some of the country’s largest charities having to make cutbacks because they haven’t received expected legacies.

Third Sector News reported a surge in legacy campaigns by charities seeking donations in wills in recent years. The article stated that more and more charities are making legacy asks, rather than one-off or regular donations. One Save the Children campaign led to double the usual number of website visits compared to previous campaigns and significantly increased how many legacy packs were downloaded from the site.

Craig Fordham, the director of legacies at Macmillan Cancer Support, believes the focus on legacy campaigns is thanks to the UK’s ageing population. The number of people in the UK aged 65 and over is expected to grow to 20.4 million by 2066. In 2016, it stood at 11.8 million (18 percent of the population).

Charity gifts in wills

At the same time, 60 percent of the population are believed not to have wills and while some 35 percent of the population in the over 40s age group say they are happy to leave gifts to charity, only about 6 percent do so. Charities therefore believe there is a hue, untapped market and a good case for persuading people how valuable leaving a legacy can prove.

Another issue believed to have led to the decline in campaigns for one-off and regular donations is the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Thanks to GDPR, charity mailing lists to ‘warm’ and especially ‘cold’ leads have become more challenging to maintain.

As the ageing population is a good prospect, thanks to property ownership adding to their wealth, investing in campaigns that target them specifically for legacy gifts is seen as an investment. The campaigns are long-term, however, as the messaging often needs to be done multiple times before someone will take action.

The rise of digital advertising, Facebook in particular, has also made it easier for charities to pursue legacy campaigns as it allows for very specific targeting of audiences according to age, location and interests.

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