Unexpected benefits of charity legacies

Posted on 06 November 2017

Why do people leave legacies to charities in their wills? An idealist would answer is that they care about the cause and want to help, even after death. A cynic might argue that the gift gives a fluffy feeling without any financial loss to the giver. 
Wherever you stand on the spectrum the fact is that charitable gifts in wills are a huge boon to the Third Sector. 
What you might not realise though is that having a legacy to a charity is a great way to protect the other wishes in your will because of the increased scrutiny of the executors. 
When probate is granted (when your will is registered after your death) it is published: it becomes a public document. Charities pay close attention to these. If a charity sees that it has a legacy due then it can make contact with the executors to make sure that it receives it's money. 
You should always choose your executors carefully. Probity and honesty are a must. Unfortunately people aren't always reliable. Where there is a charitable legacy though: the close attention the charity pays to the distribution of the estate's assets discourages poor performance or poor behaviour. 
There are even cases (like in Illott v The Blue Cross & ors https://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/knowledge/legal-articles/2017/03/15/ilott-v-blue-cross-and-others/) where a charity has sought a court ruling against a challenge to a testator's will where a disinherited family member tried to sue the estate. 
So, as well as helping the charity amd helping you feel good - a charity legacy can act as a further check or balance against the possibility of a slow/negligent/dishonest executor or a legal challenge by a disgruntled relative.