Charity income from legacies rose 8 per cent last year, according to an analysis of data filed with the Charity Commission.
The figures, produced by the law firm Smee & Ford, showed that legacy giving in England and Wales rose from £2.04bn in 2013 to £2.21bn in 2014 – even though there was a 1 per cent fall in the number of people who died.
The data, which was drawn from accounts filed with the Charity Commission, shows that almost 35,000 people left 112,937 gifts to charity in their wills in 2014.
The number of charities benefiting from wills also increased, with 2,257 charities receiving legacy donations in 2014 – this was up by 5 per cent on 2013 and 29 per cent on 2007.
One in six, 15.6 per cent, of those whose wills go to probate – the legal process for dealing with estates worth more than £5,000 or that include land – gave to charity, with the majority choosing to give to three different charities, Smee & Ford found.
The figures have been released during this year’s Remember A Charity In Your Will Week.
The legacy consortium Remember A Charity, which is organising the awareness week, said the growth was partly driven by donors giving a higher proportion of their estates to their chosen charities – up from 15.8 per cent in 2013 to 16.7 per cent – and the total value of those estates rising by 4.7 per cent, from £12.7bn to £13.3bn.
Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, said: "As the largest single source of voluntary income, the impact and importance of legacy giving cannot be underestimated. During Remember A Charity Week, we have been working with government, business and charities to support the sector in becoming loud about legacies."
Sarah Stickland, manager at Smee & Ford, said the data showed legacies had greater potential.
"By converting just 1 per cent of non-charitable wills to charitable ones, we could generate an additional £70m in legacies each year," she said. "Increase that to 5 per cent and we would see another £350m."