Charities’ legacy income increases to record £3.9bn

26 Apr 2024 News

By Charlize D/Adobe

Charities’ legacy income in England and Wales increased to a record high of £3.9bn last year, according to new research.

Smee & Ford’s latest Legacy Trends Report recorded 38,178 charitable estates in wills in 2023, the highest level since it started tracking sector data in 2012.

The legacy data analysis firm found that the total value of charitable estates rose by £1.2bn to £22.6bn, a growth of 7%. 

This, the report says, is the second time values have exceeded £20bn.

Second consecutive year of growth

Smee & Ford looked at charities’ annual accounts filed with the Charity Commission and found that legacy income increased to £3.5bn in 2022-23, up from £3.45bn the previous year.

Using its database, Smee & Ford estimated that there was an extra £388m for charities that are not in the regulator’s database, bringing total legacy income to £3.9bn, from £3.8m in 2021-22. 

This represents a second year of consecutive growth following a decline in 2020-21 caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and administrative delays at HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The total number of charities reporting legacy income grew to 2,958 last year, from 2,828 in 2021-22, while around 9,000 charities receive such income every year.

In 2023, Smee & Ford recorded 10,951 individual charities that were mentioned in wills, the highest figure it has identified in the last decade. 

Overall, 277,746 grants were issued that year, of which a record 38,178 (13.7%) were charitable estates. 

According to Family Court statistics, 581,367 people died in England and Wales in 2023, with the percentage of grants that were charitable from all deaths representing 6.6%.

The average value of a charitable estate was £592,000, up from £576,000 the previous year and £506,000 in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the median value was £350,000, compared with £341,000 in 2022 and £296,000 in 2019.

Increase driven by more probate records

Presenting the report’s findings during a webinar, Mark Pincher, analyst for Smee & Ford, said: “Although we’ve recorded the greatest number of charitable cases that we’ve ever done in any given year, it’s not because of any behavioural change, whether people are writing more wills or more charities in wills.

“It’s simply because we’ve received more records from HMCTS.”

Smee & Ford’s analysis excludes Scotland (it has not received any Scottish wills from the Scottish registry since the midpoint of 2019) and only looked at Charity Commission data up to the midpoint of 2023 due to charities having 10 months to file their accounts. 

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