Charities’ annual income from legacies has dropped to £3.2bn, its lowest in four years, according to a new report.
Legacy income for charities in England and Wales fell by 7% year-on-year from £3.4bn to £3.2bn in 2020-21 due to administrative delays at the probate service and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Smee & Ford’s annual legacy trends report.
But the report estimated that legacy income for smaller charities (with an income of less than £500,000) rose sharply to £496m during the year.
The report said there were over 37,000 charitable estates in 2021, the highest number recorded in the past five years.
And the number of unique charitable organisations mentioned in a will reached 10,670 last year, which is the highest level recorded in the past 10 years.
Most charitable estates since 2017
Smee & Ford identified 273,422 grants issued in wills last year, of which 37,242 were to charitable organisations. This is a 10.7% increase compared with the previous year.
The report said: “The number of charitable estates Smee and Ford identified in 2021 increased by 3,592 and considering that there are on average three bequests per will then the increase equates to over 10,000 additional charitable bequests.”
The report said that the average value of charitable estates grew from £442,000 in 2016 to £532,000 in 2021.
“For most people, the most valuable asset when they die is their house, which is why house prices are so important to the value of many legacy bequests,” it added.
The report noted that there are significant regional variations in giving in wills, with more charitable estates coming from the south than northern England or Wales because of factors such as population distribution and density and personal circumstances.
In an online poll conducted at Smee & Ford’s annual Legacy Strategy Summit, 24% of the 110 respondents said they are “currently recruiting and increasing legacy team size” while 70% said their legacy teams are “staying the same size”. Only 6% said they are currently “recruiting to replace departing staff members”.