Executors are sometimes surprised when they obtain a grant of probate and almost immediately receive a letter from a charitable beneficiary reminding the executor of his or her duties and the fact that the charity will be looking for some money. The charities were so well informed because a firm called Smee & Ford had a lucrative contract with the Government. For many decades they had paid the probate service an annual fee and in return received copies of all wills which were submitted for probate. Smee & Ford then sifted through the wills and alerted charities to bequests – a service much valued by the charities. But the Government has decided that the arrangement was not consistent with its legal duties because the contract did not require Smee & Ford to pay the £10 statutory fee for copies of individual wills.
The Government have notified charities that Smee & Ford will, from August, have to pay the statutory fee and, as a result, charities are going to have to pay more to be notified of bequests. I understand that charities currently pay Smee & Ford an annual subscription plus £13.00 for every notification they receive. The costs of notifications will be go up to £17.00 and the Government will be reviewing the whole arrangement over the next year to see whether it should be replaced.
One thing that will not change, executors will still be prompted by charities to ensure that they get what is due to them.