Probate actions involving charities nearly doubled between 2006 and 2011. Gone are the days of people feeling embarrassed or ashamed about challenging a deceased loved one’s will. Society’s increased awareness of probate disputes contributes to this no longer being a taboo subject.
People believe that charities will often want to avoid negative publicity and press coverage, preferring to negotiate a settlement behind closed doors before the matter reaches the public forum of a court hearing. For that reason alone, an increasing number of disappointed beneficiaries will challenge legacies to charities even where their potential claim has very little merit. They view charities as an “easy target” and a less acrimonious option than engaging in battle with another family member. Severing ties with a relative is a much bolder move than arguing with a remote charity.
So for any charity coming face to face with a potential challenge to their legacy, make sure you fully investigate the facts to determine whether the claim is genuine or not. While litigation is to be avoided, as charity trustees have a duty to protect legacy income, it is important that they ensure, so far as possible, that it is not diminished by unmeritorious claims of opportunistic individuals.