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Becoming Legacy Officer at Marie Curie marked Arian Thornton’s first role in charity legacy administration.

Although Arian’s law degree and previous role as a paralegal in private practice had amassed her valuable knowledge, she was keen to develop her skills in the charity sector, and so with that in mind, in February 2023, she applied for the Crispin Ellison Bursary.

To her delight, Arian was one of two applicants chosen to receive the bursary and used her prize — £1,000 towards education and training — to undertake her Certificate in Charity Legacy Administration. Here, Arian shares her experience of entering and receiving the bursary award and explains how it made a difference to her learning and development.

"My role as Legacy Officer means I help make sure our charity receives the funds they’re entitled to"

A move into the charity sector


“I came upon the idea of entering the charity sector while I was still working in private practice,” says Arian. “I wanted to bring what I’d learned in my law degree and all the knowledge I’d gained working in the private sector to help a charity. But pre-Covid, all the roles seemed to be office based and in London, and that wasn’t feasible for me.

“All that changed after the pandemic, and I managed to find a role with Marie Curie which combined everything I loved about private practice but was for a good cause. My role as Legacy Officer means I help make sure our charity receives the funds they’re entitled to. I’m involved in property valuations, looking out for any red flags, and checking through accounts solicitors have prepared. I’m also sometimes involved in offering support and advice to bereaved family members who may be acting as executor for a loved one.

“While I’d worked on both contentious and non-contentious cases previously, I was keen to enhance my understanding of the job from a charity perspective. My line manager at the time knew this and encouraged me to enter the Crispin Ellison Bursary. I thought — well, why not? and got to work on my application.

Winning the Crispin Ellison Bursary

“The application process was really straightforward and only took a few minutes. Once I’d submitted it, I didn’t really think too much about it and when I heard I’d won, I was speechless!”

The judges were impressed with Arian’s application because she’d described how she worked collaboratively, within her own team, her wider organisation, and the sector as a whole. Arian had worked closely with her organisation’s marketing department, for example, to come up with an initiative to source real-life stories from supporters. She’d also secured some excellent results for the charity by building good relationships with executors, especially in some tricky cases.

Arian had also evidenced instances of where she’d communicated with other charities where multiple organisations had been named as beneficiaries. This communication and working together had helped expedite decisions and resulted in more favourable outcomes for all parties concerned.

Despite her impressive application, Arian was still surprised she’d been chosen as one of the bursary recipients: “I was still so new to charity legacy administration that I didn’t really believe I had enough experience to be in with a shot. But I’m very pleased I went for it and didn’t listen to those silly little voices in my head telling me I was wasting my time and shouldn’t bother. Receiving the bursary gave me a great confidence boost and everyone in the industry has been so supportive. That’s one of the best things about the charity sector; it’s a highly collaborative environment and if you reach out for assistance, there’s always someone willing to help.”

"It’s really helped me build my knowledge and reassure me that what I’m bringing to the table is valuable."

Benefiting from the bursary

Arian began her Certificate in Charity Legacy Administration in May 2023, after receiving her bursary. “It’s a fantastic course,” she says. “I can work at my own pace and it’s a great way to integrate my studies into my work.”

Gaining more knowledge on how to see things from a charity perspective and being more vigilant when looking through a state of accounts are just two of the things Arian says the course has helped her with. “It’s a qualification that’s highly regarded,” she says. “I still consider myself relatively new to charity legacy administration and have a lot to learn, but I’m already finding myself feeling more confident working on the more complex and contentious cases.”

What would Arian say to anyone thinking of nominating themselves for the Crispin Ellison Bursary?

“Just do it. Absolutely do it. You have nothing to lose, and it could be fantastic if you win. You can do any relevant qualification you want with the bursary. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to do the certificate as quickly as I have. It’s really helped me build my knowledge and reassure me that what I’m bringing to the table is valuable.”

Apply to this year's Crispin Ellison Bursary Award

The bursary is open to applicants from the UK, who are looking to further their professional development in the area of legacy administration and management.

Two winners will receive a training package from the Institute of Legacy Management up to the value of £1000 each.