I once spent hours on the phone with the brother of a wonderful woman called Sheila who had left detailed instructions about what should be done with her bequest to the charity I was working for. Over a two week period, her brother and I had long conversations about her life history, what had led to her bequest, her wishes and the size of her considerable legacy. Eventually I felt comfortable asking her brother what law firm was handling her estate and when we might expect to receive the bequest. I'll never forget the disappointment when I discovered that she had actually left her bequest, not to the national office that employed me, but actually to one of our affiliate organisations. Her brother was unaware of the structure of the organisation and its membership affiliates and had presumed that I was going to be celebrating his sister's legacy. And after all I had learnt about her, from her brother's obvious love of his sister, I convinced myself that no one would look after her legacy the way I would have, if only she had left it to my charity! But unfortunately it was all too late. She made her will through the Public Trust, there were no particular instructions about how her legacy was to be recognised or used, she was not an existing donor so nothing was known about her, and her family would have received nothing more than a receipt sent to the lawyer.
The lesson I learnt from Sheila's story is the importance of making sure that your chosen charity knows your intentions or your wishes before you die.