Will power urged to raise $500m for charity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am

Campaign aims to help welfare agencies by encouraging legacy donations

Cash-strapped welfare agencies could receive up to $500 million under a legacy-for-charity plan being promoted by a will-writing company.

The estimate was made by the company, Rockwills, as it launched the 'Will Power for Legacy' campaign to raise funds for 30 of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service's 312 agencies in the first year. The scheme will be extended to more agencies in later years.

Rockwills managing director Joanna Tang Yuk-king said 25 agencies had expressed an interest in joining the programme.

The council welcomed the scheme, saying every dollar raised was important. But council chief executive Christine Fang Meng-sang said it was more important to promote the culture of legacy giving in general rather than focus on the sum likely to be raised.

The council's business director, Cliff Choi Kim-wah, added: 'We appreciate every single dollar people donate.'

Under the scheme, planners will suggest to their clients a list of welfare agencies and invite them to appoint the organisations as beneficiaries. The company will draft the wills accordingly.

Ms Tang expected about 10,000 people making wills to join the programme in the first year. If each assigned $50,000 to charities, a total of $500 million would be raised - $16 million for each of the 30 agencies. She stressed that the scheme was 'definitely not a channel to attract business.'

The company also hopes the charity programme will help promote will-writing in Hong Kong, where people are reluctant to face up to matters dealing with death.

Rockwills legal director Raymond Tong Wai-sing said a survey by the company indicated just 3 per cent of the working population had a will, a situation that could lead to drawn-out family tussles over a dead person's assets. He also quoted a survey by another company that indicated only 6 per cent of retired people had wills.

Mr Tong said cultural taboos had discouraged many people in Hong Kong from preparing wills.

Many Chinese people remained reluctant to make wills unless they had fallen ill or foresaw possible family conflicts over their assets.

'Many people still link wills to death, which they do not want to think about,' he said. 'But without wills, families may take longer and have to go through more complicated legal procedures to claim the assets, such as they have to prove their relationship with the deceased. Even worse, it may give rise to family disputes over the distribution of assets.'

Spouses have priority to claim assets under the law in the absence of a will, followed by their children. Therefore, some elderly parents may not be allocated any assets in some cases. 'The arrangement under the law may be against the will of the deceased,' Mr Tong said.

A similar charity programme has been organised by the Life Underwriters Association of Hong Kong, where insurance buyers are invited to appoint their favourite agencies as beneficiaries under a strategy to raise $19 million a year. The scheme was proposed to the Council of Social Service.