New Zealand Law Society

Navigation menu

Quest for a Bequest: a new online service for lawyers working on bequests

09 November 2018 - By Nick Butcher

Upper Hutt lawyer Reg Newell and his wife Heather, an experienced fundraiser, have created a new online registry service to manage bequests or legacies left to charities.

Mr Newell explains that the initiative at Quest for a Bequest came about through frustration when dealing with these matters.

“Some of the information I was receiving from clients wasn’t completely accurate and with wills there is no room for inaccuracy, it has to be 100% correct, otherwise you open yourself up to possible professional negligence, but fundamentally you are also doing a disservice to your client.

“I do a lot of work with conveyancing, wills and estates. I’ve had situations where some clients would provide me with a very general description of a charity that they wished to leave money to in their will. It was quite challenging because sometimes I’d try and find the legal description of the charity and often I’d end up ringing the organisation concerned and that too would sometimes cause further problems,” he says.

Bequests run into millions of dollars each year, and while it may appear straightforward in that someone leaves a sum of money to a charity, the challenge is often in identifying the specific charity the money is to go to.

“It can be very complex. Charities tend to compartmentalise themselves if they’re large and include a foundation, a trust, or even a regional organisation. Sometimes there’s also confusion as to whether it’s a national organisation or a local organisation under that umbrella. Our aim is to set out the various component parts that a client could choose and therefore make it very simple but comprehensive,” he says.

Over 700 entries on website

The Quest for a Bequest website already has over 700 entries listing charities that have received a bequest over the past four years.

Heather Newell says a question she often asks charity organisations is: how hard is it to leave a bequest to your organisation?

“What they (charities) often do is produce brochures, send them to lawyers and hope lawyers will realise this charity is looking for bequests. But it doesn’t often work like that,” she says.

Reg Newell says the website clears up any confusion or misunderstanding some people may have about charitable organisations that carry out similar tasks but are not the same organisation.

“For example, in Wellington we have the Wellington Free Ambulance which is not the same as St John Ambulance. If someone was to do a search, this information would be made clear and often people are confused by it,” he says.

The Quest for a Bequest website is free for the public to use but is mostly aimed at estate lawyers who are drafting wills.

The New Zealand Law Society still receives inquiries about the NZ Charity and Legal Gazette, which was published annually and provided details of charities. This ceased publication with the death of its owner and editor, Michael Woolf.

Last updated on the 9th November 2018