The number of legacy gifts received by charities has increased by more than 8 per cent in the past two years, according to research body Legacy Foresight.
The figures cover gifts left to the organisation's 38 charity members, which receive 44 per cent of the value of gifts left to charity each year. The charities received 36,262 legacy gifts between autumn 2008 and autumn 2009, up from 33,506 during the same period in 2006/07. The number of legacies left to members of the group in 2007/08 was 35,982.
About 40 per cent of legacies left in 2008/09 were residuary notifications, meaning that the remainder of a person's estate was left to charity after specific amounts had been allocated elsewhere. The average value of such legacies was £50,000.
The other 60 per cent were pecuniary notifications, in which specific sums were left to charity. These had an average value of £3,500.
Meg Abdy, director of Legacy Foresight, said the figures related to donations received by charities rather than donations pledged in wills. She said people wrote their wills on average five-and-a-half years before they died, so the rise in legacy giving was likely to have started in about 2002.
"There were a number of awareness-raising campaigns around that time, and these figures seem to show that they were effective," she said.
"In the past year, the value of bequests has fallen because of falling house prices and the recession. The increase in the number of bequests has been important because it has counteracted this."
According to Legacy Foresight, only 7 per cent of people in the UK aged over 40 have left gifts to charity in their wills.