You can’t take it with you…but you still need to talk…

The final episode of a quality TV programme about making wills marks a welcome contribution to a difficult subject by the BBC. And doesn’t it show the need for families to talk about them.

You Can’t Take it With You, with business guru Sir Gerry Robinson and legal expert Sue Medders, helps bring families together to write their wills and face difficult challenges and decisions. Ranging from favouritism, to boys versus girls, to step families, to judgements about people’s lifestyles to old-fashioned prejudice, Sir Gerry has talked – and listened to them all. Included in this is the charity dilemma or decision – if its even on the radar. Its something we know about only too well.

It’s an interesting window on the attitudes of those who wrestle with such family dilemmas. The key to this programme rests with the exploration of a subject most wont talk about. Given the clashes (albeit lined up to create good tv) you can see why for many this is somewhere they don’t want to go. We know about family and friends first, charity second…its at the heart of the Remember a Charity campaign. The programme also prompts some thoughts about how charities could work more proactively with these insights and help make a positive contribution to these dilemmas. Here is my list of challenges, ideas and thoughts that we might consider…

1. Lets champion a service that helps families decide for themselves – not as a legal service, as a gift. Why don’t we offer a ’round table’ service to talk? A Relate for legacies?

2. Do we all give a clear set of expectations about how we will deal with a gift, what charities role is, what we have to do, and what we want to do to help the donor ort family – to reassure, to give confidence.

3. Can we give more to help executors? An online training course?

4. Do we promote the Fundraising Promise in our legacy materials?

5. Do we champion a donors charter that puts them first and us second?

6. Can we create a new consistent language when we talk that joins up the marketing and legacy administration side of donors charity experience?

7. Is there an ombudsman or the like that we can use to settle disputes?

8. Can we get the Big Society agenda to recognise the importance of charity legacies and help make it a social norm? How do we make it central to the Giving green paper?

9. What if we made everyone in charities able to talk about legacies….normally

10. A solicitor/will maker charter for charity support – a pledge to ask if people will leave a gift in their will, a professional committment to charities

You definitely can’t take it with you…but unless you talk about it……

Posted in Ageing, Brand, Charity, Family, Fundraising, Giving, Ideas, Innovation, Insight, Legacies, Management, Psychology, Remember a Charity, Seniors, TV, Wills and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Totally agree about having support/training for executors – my mum was an executor on her friends will and it was a big learning curve at a very emotional time, and someone to provide support would have made a huge difference….

  2. I have been watching this series every week and also wondered could charities offer a Relate service to get families round the table and help facilitate. Struggled with how we could be completely impartial, but am sure if there’s a WILL there’s a way!

  3. I’ve published the 5th edition of my best-selling book, “You Can’t take It with You”, first published in 1996. Having worked with families for more than 20 years, I second the idea that individuals need to encouraged to act.

    But there are a number of hurdles to jump through.

    One is the lack of knowledge related to why and how to prepare a will.
    Two deals with talking with family and our privacy regarding money and emotions. But it is possible to talk about the highlights of your estate and will with family members without going into all the details of your personal and financial life.
    Three relates to the fear or discomfort of dealing with a lawyer or solicitor to actually draft that will, especially where the individual does not understand the process.
    Next, individuals often do not realize they have a personal right to put in writing what they want done on their death.
    And they may be able to make a difference by working with charity in a way they are not even aware of!

    If the dialogue starts with information that educates, that knowledge can result in wins for the family and charity. Charities will not benefit in every individual situation, but there will be wins and some significant ones.

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