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Mental health charity joins national network providing free Wills.

Mind, the charity which provides help and support to people affected by – and campaigns for better recognition and treatment for – mental health problems, has joined the growing list of UK charities offering free Wills to their supporters.

Every year, one in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem and, while there is now much more understanding of mental health as an illness, there is still not full parity with physical health problems in terms of recognition and support – and the stigma that still remains can dissuade vulnerable people from seeking help in times of crisis.

That is why charities such as Mind are a vital lifeline for people, including me, who have suffered – or continue to suffer – from a mental health problem. They provide information on the different mental health issues people face, to running dedicated helplines which offer information on mental health problems and where to find support, general advice on the law related to mental health, and information for emergency service workers and their families.

Local Mind charities offer services including supported housing, crisis helplines, drop-in centres, employment and training schemes, counselling and befriending.

Providing such vital services requires support from the general public and, as with most charities, income from legacies in Wills is incredibly important. In 2009, for example, Mind was left £3.1 million by people who had passed away. Whilst the annual amounts are, by their very nature, unpredictable, legacy income provides charities with a steady stream of income to support their work – and the market for charities vying for gifts in Wills is ever expanding. Indeed, one of the last Wills I wrote while in legal employment contained gifts to 15 different charities – of which five carried out the same type of work.

By joining the National Free Wills Network (NFWN), Mind are providing an incentive for their supporters to leave them a gift in their Will. However, this is not a requirement of the scheme; anyone who takes up the offer is free to leave their hard-earned money to whoever they wish.

The NFWN is a group of charities organised by Capacity Marketing, with a network of over 700 solicitors in the UK writing Wills for each charity’s supporters. Each charity provides their supporters with the necessary information and documents, together with a list of local solicitors.

Supporters are free to attend whichever network solicitor they feel comfortable with. There is no direct relationship between the charities and the solicitors, meaning that supporters can be assured of receiving completely independent advice when they attend for a consultation.

Once the Will has been signed, the solicitors will forward a confidential declaration form (which will have been signed by the supporter) to the NFWN, who will in turn arrange for payment to be made by the charity. The fee the charity pays is usually at a discounted rate from the solicitors’ regular Will rate, while supporters only pay anything if their Will is not considered a “basic” or “standard” Will by the firm they instruct.

(Transparency notice: I am well-versed in the operations of the NFWN as, when I worked at Fosters Law, I saw many clients wishing to make Wills through this scheme.)

The benefit for supporters is immediately obvious: they have a professional, legal Will drawn up, usually for free. The solicitors’ reason for offering the scheme is also obvious: although they have probably received less in fees than if the same Will had been drawn up under their ordinary rates, most clients who come through the NFWN would not ordinarily have made a Will – or, if they had, they may have gone to another firm.

However there is also a distinct advantage for the charity, in terms of increasing their income from legacies. For example:

Five people approach the charity to participate in the scheme: two leave gifts to the charity (the first gifts the sum of £15,000 and the second 5% of their Estate) while the other three do not. The Wills have cost the charity £90 each1, being a net expense of £450.

Before he dies, the first supporter changes his Will because he needs to go into residential care, and leaving a legacy to the charity would mean there was little left for his children. However, when the second dies, his net Estate to go to his beneficiaries is £300,000. As a result, the charity receives £15,000 from his Estate.

From these five Wills alone, a short-term cost of £450 has resulted in the charity receiving £15,000. Although it is not an immediate benefit, these participants’ Wills have provided a net surplus of £14,550.

Although not every Will includes a legacy, the NFWN estimate that over 70% of participants do leave a gift to the relevant charity. Since it was launched in 2008, it has generated approximately £32 million in future legacies for its member charities.

To find out more about arranging your own free Will through Mind and the NFWN, please take a look at the information on their website.

Notes:

1. Illustrative figure – from memory I cannot recall exactly how much is paid for each Will under the NFWN.

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