Bequest notifications to charities were down by 8 per cent year on year in the third quarter of 2019, according to new data from Legacy Foresight.
The company that provides insights into the UK legacy market revealed the figure in its latest Legacy Monitor quarterly bulletin, which was published last week.
The bulletin, which is based on information provided by a consortium of 80 charities, attributes about three-quarters of the 8 per cent decline to continuing delays in changes to the probate service, such as the closure of regional offices and the implementation of a new IT system.
But the situation appears to be easing: bequest notifications were 24 per cent down year on year in the second quarter, with about three-quarters of this attributed to the delays.
And charities can expect to see strong year-on-year growth of 24 per cent in the final quarter as the delays are resolved.
The legacy information firm Smee & Ford, which has been running the service to notify charities about gifts in wills, had been due to lose its contract with the government, but it was announced in July that the company would run the service for at least a further 12 months until a long-term solution could be found.
Chris Farmelo, technical director at Legacy Foresight, said changes to the probate system, which is overseen by HM Courts & Tribunals Service, had been affecting legacy income and bequest figures for nine months.
"Once the backlog is cleared, charities can expect a significant boost to bequest numbers to compensate for the shortfall in bequests experienced this year," said Farmelo.
"For Legacy Monitor consortium members specifically, who make up more than 50 per cent of the legacy market overall, this increase looks to be substantial, estimated at about 24 per cent higher in October to December than would otherwise have been the case."
The bulletin shows weak overall growth of just 0.2 per cent from quarter two to quarter three.
Growth, it said, appeared to be slowing and short-term prospects were uncertain.
Farmelo said much depended on how quickly the current backlog could be resolved and the impact of the general election on the nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU.
"However, the period 2021 to 2024 is expected to see stronger growth in key economic variables, which, combined with an underlying rise in the number of deaths, will generate legacy income growth of nearly 4 per cent per annum," he added.