Legacy gifts expected to reach £2.5bn in 2016

A report from the legacy information provider Smee & Ford says charitable income from wills has increased by 39 per cent in the past five years

The report
The report

Legacy gifts to charities in 2016 are expected to reach a total of more than £2.5bn for the first time, according to a new report.

Charitable income from legacies has increased by 39 per cent over the past five years, an increase of £0.7bn, according to a report, Legacy Trends: 2017 Update, published by the legacy information provider Smee & Ford today.

Data for 2016 is still being compiled because many charities have not finished their financial years, the report says, but the company expects the final figure to exceed £2.5bn.

Although the number of estates that included legacy gifts to charities reported so far in 2016 has fallen compared with 2015, from 37,775 to 36,197, the report says a rise in house prices has driven an increase in the value of bequests.

There were a total of 121,231 individual gifts in 2016. The most common number of bequests in a will was one, often to a place of worship, and the average number was 3.3, although there were as many as 101 bequests in one single will.

The report estimates that 6 per cent of the population leave something to charities in wills. But it says that, based on the total number of estates that were dealt with in 2016, if only 1 per cent or 2,349 more people could be persuaded to include gifts to charities in their wills it would raise an additional £95m.

Of the total donor wealth distributed from wills that included charitable gifts in 2016, 15.6 per cent went to charities, the report says.

Using data from 2016 charitable bequests, the report estimates that six out of 10 legacy donors are female, and the average donor writes their last will at 77 (although the most common age is 81), dies aged 84 (although the most common age is 88) and is most likely to live in the south of England.

Charities that benefited from the biggest year-on-year increases in legacy income were Cancer Research UK, which reported a 28 per cent rise, or £11m, in its 2015/16 financial year, and the British Red Cross, which increased its legacy income by 12 per cent, or £10.4m.

The report advises charities that want to increase their legacy income to start by seeking support at trustee and senior management level.

"Once you’ve got senior level buy-in, you can start to build a ‘legacy culture’ throughout your organisation," the report says.

"Everyone in your organisation should understand how important gifts in wills are in enabling you to carry out your work, and that they all have a part to play in helping promote this method of giving."

Earlier this month, data from the Legacy Monitor Consortium, whose 83 charity members together account for more than half of the charity legacy market, shows that in 2016 members received £1.43bn in legacy income – an increase of 10 per cent on its total for the year before.

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