5 Things to Remember About Legacy Administration

During this week’s monthly group coaching session as part of my Online Legacy Bootcamp, friend and 30-year nonprofit

During this week’s monthly group coaching session as part of my Online Legacy Bootcamp, friend and 30-year nonprofit veteran, Peggy Killeen, joined us to share the top 5 things she’s learned over the years about legacy administration.

  • Saying no is just fine

Not all estates are created equally. While most are trouble-free, it’s important to understand that it’s alright to refuse a legacy gift and in fact, in some cases, it’s the best thing an organization can do to protect itself. For instance, cases where the value of the estate has been depleted, or the terms of the gift do not comply with the organization’s gift acceptance policy or the mission are some of the main reasons why an organization should refuse a legacy gift.

  • It’s called administration but it’s really administrative

The level of understanding of how to administer an estate from executors can range from fabulous to outright incompetent (sometimes, through no fault of theirs). Only legal professionals are trained in this type of work which makes it so much more difficult when the executor is a lay-person. Consider nudging donors to consider hiring an estate trustee whose sole responsibility is to the beneficiaries. This can prevent any issues or negligence from the part of the executor.

  • Patience is a virtue

Settling estates is a very long process. On average it can take up to two years (Peggy’s experience with a legacy settlement taking 25 years will make anyone’s eyes bulge out!). Having a check list of the steps to follow and having all the processes in place can ease the task at hand. Things like templates for the release forms, follow-ups, acceptance/refusal letters, etc. and making sure the database is configured correctly for reminders can help you stay on top of your files.

  • Collaboration is key

There is a high probability that your charity may not be the only beneficiary named in the will. Be ready to collaborate with other charities during the settlement of the estate. If you’re working for a larger organization, you can probably help a smaller charity with less resources or experience in estate administration. Sharing knowledge and resources can only benefit everyone.

  • The donor part of the equation

This was Peggy’s number one learning. Do not minimize the gift to the amount of paperwork you’ll be shuffling over the next two years. The gift is not a receivable on a spreadsheet, it’s a culmination of a person’s life, love, and passion that loved ones are grieving. It’s the result of a successful relationship nurtured over years, maybe decades, by you and other talented fundraising professionals. Treat it with the same level of dignity and reverence as if the donor was sitting right in front of you.

Whether you are responsible for everything related to legacy fundraising or simply the administrative part, I hope these tips will help you settle the estates donors have left for your organization.


If you’re interested in joining the next Online Legacy Bootcamp starting in September (dates to be confirmed), click this link to be added to the waiting list. You will be notified ahead of everyone else so you can complete your registration.

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