Charities’ legacy income increases to £3.7bn despite fewer deaths, report says

20 Apr 2023 News

Charities’ legacy income has increased to an estimated £3.7bn, the highest total since 2017, according to a new report. 

Legacy income for charities in England and Wales reported to the Charity Commission increased by 13.2% from 2021 despite there being 10,000 fewer deaths than in 2021, the report says. 

There were 576,030 deaths in 2022 and 6.4% of all people in the population of England in Wales that died mentioned a charitable organisation in their will. This is the same percentage as 2021. 

£3.7bn donated through gifts in wills last year

Smee and Ford’s Legacy Trends Report 2023 found legacy income reported to the Charity Commission was £3.3bn in 2022, compared to £2.9bn in 2021, and it estimated a further £447m was submitted to charities with an income of less than £500,000 that do not have to file legacy income with the regulator. 

This is higher than previous years, meaning that more legacy income is estimated to have gone to smaller charities than before. 

In 2022, there were 10,627 charitable organisations mentioned in wills. More than 2,000 charities were mentioned for the first time in people’s wills, with the most popular causes being community, religion and culture and heritage. 

Some 37.1% of charitable wills contained the name of just one charity while 21.7% contained two. The highest number of charities named in one will in 2022 was 79, according to the report. 

Charitable estates value increased by £1.4bn 

There were 37,053 charitable estates in 2022, a decrease from 37,242 in the year prior. 

Charitable estate values grew by £1.4bn to £21.3bn, an increase of 7% on 2021. The average value of a charitable estate has also grown by 8% over the past year due to a rise in house prices. 

“Estate value growth is important to legacies because growth in estate values translates to growth in the values of residual bequests”, the report reads. 

In 2019 and 2020 the number of charitable estates processed were impacted by backlog in probate due to the coronavirus pandemic and changes to the His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, the report says. 

Lucinda Frostick, director of Remember A Charity, commented on the research: “Income from gifts in wills is having a real impact on charities across the country and it’s hugely encouraging to see such growth – both when it comes to the amount raised and public appetite for giving in this way.

“More and more charities are benefitting from legacies, funding vital services and core operations. That income really is crucial for charities – more now than ever.”

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