Charities still do not know how they will receive bequest alerts after the government ends its arrangement with a private legacy notification provider next month.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service is due to end its relationship with notification specialist Smee & Ford in July after a near 60-year arrangement but it has not revealed what will replace it.
HMCTS sent an open letter to charities telling them that ‘good progress’ has been made on an interim solution. However, it will not reveal what the solution is until 18 June, just weeks before it is due to be implemented.
In the letter HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood wrote that ‘while I am not yet in a position to provide details, I am now confident that an interim solution will be in place to deliver the continuity of service your members have sought’.
Neil Fraser, partner of Fraser and Fraser, a firm of genealogists and international probate researchers, said: ‘We’re pleased that HMCTS appears to have grasped the importance to charities of continuity in the legacy notification service. It is, however, concerning that no details have been released regarding a service that will need to start in around a month’s time.’
He added: ‘We are adding our voice to those calling upon the government to share their plans as a matter of urgency.’
An HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘Bequests made in wills play a vital role in funding charitable work and we are fully committed to ensuring an effective system is in place.’
President of the Law Society of England and Wales Christina Blacklaws said: 'It’s a cause for concern that the government has not yet shared details about the new charitable legacy notification service – particularly when this is due to be implemented next month.
'With solicitors, lay executors and probate professions already suffering the effects of wider IT issues in the probate service, it is crucial the profession is properly consulted in creating the new notification service.'
Smee & Ford reads around 5,000 wills every week before alerting charities of bequests.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice was accused of excluding solicitors from discussions about bequest alert systems. HMCTS has since held a meeting with the Law Society.