Legacy income at record high of at least £2.8bn

Legacy Trends 2018, published by Smee & Ford, says legacy income was up by £37.8m in 2017

Charity legacy income reached a record high of at least £2.8bn in 2017, new figures show.

Legacy Trends 2018, compiled by the legacy information provider Smee & Ford, found that 36,445 estates included charitable gifts in 2017.

In total these were worth between £2.8bn and £2.9bn, up by £37.8m on the previous year and the highest figure recorded, the report says.

The number of gifts was consistent with 2016, according to the report, and the increase in value was largely due to the rise in house prices.

The report says this is because 90 per cent of the gifts were residual requests, in which the charity is awarded a percentage of the estate that is left after other gifts have been made.

"Usually when we die our greatest asset is our home, hence the importance of house prices," the report says. "It is these residuary legacies which greatly affect total legacy income."

It adds that this means "legacy income is susceptible to wider economic or political forces which could be affected by either the housing or investment markets".

On average, 15.6 per cent of the value of estates containing charitable gifts went to charities, and 6.1 per cent of the population leave a bequest in a will.

Cancer Research UK recorded the highest legacy income, the report says, receiving £186.6m in the year to 31 March 2017. The lifeboat charity the RNLI received £130.5m in 2016 and the RSPCA received £78.6m over the same period.

The biggest financial increase in legacy income was reported by Macmillan Cancer Support, which grew it by £12.9m, from £63.9m to £76.8m.

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