Char­ity watch­dog to probe KKL wills ad­vice

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE CHAR­ITY Com­mis­sion is looking into a com­plaint against the JNF over the of­fer of free ad­vice on wills in re­turn for a be­quest to the char­ity.

The com­plaint arose out of a dis­pute over a will which left money to a num­ber of char­i­ties, in­clud­ing JNF, af­ter the donor had con­sulted the KKL will ser­vice, which is run by a sub­sidiary of JNF UK.

But a spokesman for KKL said that the com­mis­sion three years ago had ex­pressed “sat­is­fac­tion with our prac­tices and pro­ce­dures” and that it would gladly an­swer any queries.

The ques­tion over the KKL ser­vice stems from the death of Leeds GP Stan­ley Somers, who died two years ago, un­mar­ried and child­less.

In 2002, KKL helped him draw up a will, leav­ing the tax-free share of his es­tate to his eight great-neph­ews and nieces — a sum worth £285,000 at his death — with the residue to be di­vided equally among five char­i­ties.

Th­ese were: the NSPCC, the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion, Can­cer Re­search UK (as the char­ity is now known), JNF and the Leeds Jewish Wel­fare Board.

Three years later, he changed the will, leav­ing £10,000 to each of the five char­i­ties and the re­main­der to the rel­a­tives.

Fam­ily sources es­ti­mate the es­tate over­all to be worth around £750,000, which meant that if the first will had stood, most of the money would have gone to the char­i­ties — which, ac­cord­ing to the fam­ily, was not what Dr Som- ers had wanted. Four of the char­i­ties — the ex­cep­tion be­ing the Leeds Jewish Wel­fare Board — chal­lenged the va­lid­ity of the sec­ond will, but mem­bers of the doc­tor’s fam­ily this week said they un­der­stood that it was no longer be­ing con­tested by the char­i­ties.

One of Dr Somers’s great-nieces, a 24year-old med­i­cal stu­dent who de­clined to be named, said: “Our great-un­cle loved us as if we were his own chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

“He was deeply dis­tressed when he re­alised that the ‘residue’ he left in the first will for the five char­i­ties was far more than the amount he’d left for his great-nieces and great-neph­ews.”

She said she be­lieved that “the whole sys­tem used by the KKL of of­fer­ing wills ‘free’ on con­di­tion you give money to the JNF is fun­da­men­tally wrong”.

A spokesman for the Char­ity Com­mis­sion con­firmed that it had “re­ceived a com­plaint re­lat­ing to fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties by the JNF Char­i­ta­ble Trust and had con­tacted the char­ity to ask for ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion in re­la­tion to this mat­ter, and are cur­rently await­ing its re­sponse. Once that has been re­ceived, we will con­sider the ap­pro­pri­ate way for­ward.”

A KKL spokesman said that it would “gladly an­swer ques­tions” put by the com­mis­sion.

“In 2005, the com­mis­sion’s own re­view of KKL ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with our prac­tices and pro­ce­dures,” said the spokesman.

“KKL is a lead­ing com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion, draw­ing up wills and act­ing as the ex­ecu­tors of wills since 1948. It is al­ways our prac­tice to en­sure that the per­son draw­ing up a will seeks in­de­pen­dent le­gal ad­vice when­ever con­sid­er­a­tion is be­ing given to mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant legacy to the JNF.

“In ad­di­tion to the usual roles of an ex­ecu­tor, we would point out that the KKL also per­forms an im­por­tant role for tes­ta­tors who have no close fam­ily that can take care of the im­por­tant and uniquely Jewish tasks of ar­rang­ing the fu­neral, the stone­set­ting and the say­ing of kad­dish.”

He said that solic­i­tors had acted for JNF and the three na­tional char­i­ties over the con­tested es­tate, adding: “Pro­ceed­ings were not is­sued, and fol­low­ing a re­cent meet­ing, all the par­ties are hope­ful of re­solv­ing the dis­pute.”

In­for­ma­tion about lega­cies posted on the JNF’s web­site says that the so­lic­i­tor who heads KKL’s wills ser­vice “com­bines ex­pert le­gal knowl­edge with a deep un­der­stand­ing of Jewish con­cerns. And his time and ad­vice is free if JNF ben­e­fits from a legacy.”

The JNF gained £532,000 from lega­cies, ac­cord­ing to its lat­est pub­lished ac­counts in 2006.

Ac­cord­ing to the Char­ity Com­mis­sion’s pub­lished guide­lines, there is no ob­jec­tion to a char­ity of­fer­ing to meet the cost of a prepa­ra­tion of a will “in the be­lief that the char­ity will re­ceive a legacy”.

But i f it does, the com­mis­sion “strongly ad­vises that char­ity em­ploy­ees should never be­come in­volved in draft­ing an in­di­vid­ual’s will.”

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