Charitable legacy income rose by an estimated £400m last year, figures show

Charity legacy income reached an estimated almost £3.4bn last year, new figures show. 

The Legacy Trends Report 2021, published by the legacy information company Smee & Ford, says that reported legacy income in England and Wales was worth slightly more than £3bn in the year to June 2020, leading it to conclude that estimated total legacy income was worth £3.36bn over the same period. 

This is up from an estimated total of just under £3.1bn in the previous year. 

The figures are based on legacy income reported to the Charity Commission plus an estimate for those charities that do not report legacy income to the commission because they have annual incomes of less than £500,000. 

The total value of reported legacies reached a recent high of £3.35bn in 2017/18 but this was boosted by a £435m bequest to the Capricorn Foundation. 

If this gift is excluded, last year was the highest year for reported charity legacy income. 

Smee & Ford said there were 33,653 charitable estates in 2020, which was 1,826 higher than in 2018. 

Total estate values increased from £76.1bn to £85.2bn year-on-year, the report says, which means the rise in charitable legacies was not just down to a rise in the number of charitable wills. 

Reported legacy income was £1.7bn 2007/8. 

The total number of charities mentioned in a will rose by 120 compared with previous year to 10,082. 

About 14 per cent of probated estates with wills are charitable, the report says. 

It found that 38 per cent of charitable wills named one charity and 22 per cent named two. 

The highest number of charities named in one will in 2020 was 61.

The report said Smee & Ford had “seen a shift in cause whereby community-based charities now make up a fifth of charities being mentioned in a will for the first time. 

“Conversely, the proportion of bequests left to religious organisations is beginning to decrease year on year.”

The charity legacy consortium Legacy Foresight estimated last month that charity legacy income would reach £5bn a year by the start of the next decade.

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