The value of legacy gifts to charities fell by an estimated £57m between 2008 and 2009, according to new research by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy.
The Legacy of the Recession, a report published this week, shows that the 20 biggest legacy-earning charities suffered a combined fall of 3 per cent in legacy income in the most recent financial year. The 20 charities together attract 42 per cent of all charitable legacies in the UK.
If extended to the whole sector, the figure equates to a collective drop in income of £57m, the report says. Charities receive legacy gifts worth a total of £1.9bn each year, it adds.
The report also shows that legacy income at the National Trust, which has the fourth-largest income from this source in the sector, fell from £57.8m in the year ending February 2008 to £42.8m the following year.
Nevertheless, a number of large charities, including Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, saw their legacy income increase slightly in the financial year to 2009. The British Red Cross's income from legacies rose from £19.9m to £26.7m during the same period.
The report says the overall fall was largely due to a drop in asset and property values. It predicts that legacy income will fall in 2010 and begin to recover in 2011.
Stephen George, chair of legacy consortium Remember A Charity, said: "Charities can't do much about property values hitting legacies, but they should be doing more to encourage people to leave legacy gifts. Some charities just expect legacy income to keep coming in."