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Legacy Foresight and ILM recently carried out some research into the experiences of legacy managers dealing with cases involving lay execs.

Despite the generally positive experiences uncovered in the research, all legacy managers have experienced situations where relationships with lay executors have become strained. While they may be relatively small in number, these cases can be stressful and time-consuming and may present a reputational risk to your charity, so it’s important you feel equipped to deal with these difficult situations.

To help, our team from Legacy Link have suggested a number of practical steps that may help here:


Sometimes a LE struggles to articulate what they mean/what they want from you.  Sometimes all it takes is letting them get general frustrations with the probate process off their chest then a conversation becomes much more productive!  Then provide the information they want. 

Build the relationship slowly

Building a trusting working relationship takes time. When working with a new lay executor, the first couple of interactions should be focused on offering help and building trust and confidence, more technical requests/ requests for documentation etc should be saved for later in the process once the relationship has been built.

Get help with LE letters

Fundraising or marketing teams will have wordsmiths who can help make letters/ requests for legal/audit requirements sound less threatening.

Keep it simple and always explain why you are asking for it

This has been highlighted by the research and mentioned above, it is so important.

Explain audit requirements in a positive way

‘our auditors like to see a copy of the will/will clause to make sure there are no restrictions and check that the charity is using the funds as the deceased intended’, ‘Auditors check we are entitled to the funds received so they want to see accounts’, etc.

Be pragmatic

If the LE doesn’t respond, look for information elsewhere – e.g. using Smee & Ford data and perhaps Rightmove to estimate your benefit if they refuse to provide accounts.  Obtain your own copy of the will (£1.50 is worth it not to chase a LE if they don’t respond to a request).

Be proportional

Always have proportionality in mind when requesting information from LEs, is what you’re asking for really essential to the process? if not do you need to keep chasing for it?

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

If things get difficult, a phone call can help diffuse tension and resolve issues more quickly. Being able to speak to someone, engage in conversation, share experiences, ask questions, be empathetic and hear a person’s tone of voice makes the whole experience more personal and less open to misinterpretation.  

Exhaust all internal checks and databases before following up

Despite best efforts, some executors will pay via donation facilities (eg website) or by credit card over the phone just to get the estate completed, even if they have been in contact with the Legacy Administration team in the past.  Depending on the circumstances, it may be helpful to acknowledge you may not yet have been told about a payment and invite them to confirm details of payment so you can tie up records rather than just chasing for updates.

Sharon Wheeler

Want to know more

For more information about the ways we could support your team please contact Sharon Wheeler