The size and shape of the legacy market

Gifts in wills are a vital and buoyant source of charity income. These data dashboards for the financial year ending 2022/23 describe the size and shape of gifts in wills in the UK, and how legacy incomes have grown over the past 30 years.

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Total UK Legacy Income, £bn

Over the past 30 years legacy incomes have quadrupled in value, from £0.9bn in 1993 to £4.0bn in 2022/23.  Even once inflation has been taken into account, real incomes have doubled – which means British charities can launch twice as many lifeboats, train twice as many guide dogs or support twice as many cancer patients as before.

Legacy Foresight, Market Model 2023

Annual legacy income

£4.0bn

Total UK legacy income in 2022/23 coming from around 140,000 bequests (growth of just 0.6%, limited by the ongoing probate backlog).

UK

Legacy sectors by size

Top 1,000 legacy charities drawn from the Charity Commission Register of Charities 2021/22

Health is by far the largest sector, accounting for 39% of legacy income. Next comes animal charities (16%), followed by development, conservation and disability charities with a share of 7% each. Armed forces and children’s charities each represent around 3% of total income.

The sizeable ‘other’ category (18%) includes legacy super-brands RNLI and the Salvation Army as well as large player Age UK, alongside a host of much smaller organisations from a wide variety of sectors such as churches, schools and arts organisations.

Over the past 10 years development charities have enjoyed especially strong income growth (5.9% p.a.) as have other smaller, niche sectors including air ambulances (12.5% p.a.), wildlife trusts (12.3% p.a.), mental health charities (8.8% p.a.) and arts and education organisations (8.6% p.a.).

22%

The top 10 legacy charities in England & Wales account for over 22% of all legacy income and these include household brands such as CRUK, RNLI, BHF and Macmillan.

71%

Top 1,000 charities in England & Wales account for over 71% of all legacy income.

Top 1,000 legacy charities drawn from the Charity Commission Register of Charities 2021/22

Contribution of legacy income

For the top 1,000 legacy charities in England and Wales, legacies represent 29% of fundraised income and 15% of total income.

Voluntary income

Total income

Top 1,000 legacy charities drawn from the Charity Commission Register of Charities 2021/22

Average gift values

Residuary

£53,500

Average value of residuary bequests (a percentage share of an estate) including other gift types such as specific gifts.

Legacy Foresight, Market Model 2023

Pecuniary

£3,740

Average value of pecuniary bequests (a specific sum of money left in a will).

Legacy Foresight, Market Model 2023

93%

93% of legacy income comes from residual and ‘other’ bequests.

Legacy Foresight, Market Model 2023

59%

59% of income comes from just 9% of bequests. These are from high value estates worth over £100k.

Percentage of high value gifts

Amount of income from high value gifts

Legacy Foresight, Monitor healthcheck data 2023

6.7 years

Unlike other forms of giving, there can be a long time lag between someone writing a gift into their will and the charity receiving the money. For residuary gifts, it takes an average of 6.7 years from last will to death and another 2.5 years to receive all the income from the estate.

There is a wide range within this average, and some charities with an older supporter base see a shorter average time from last will to gift.

Legacy Foresight, Monitor Healtcheck data 2023

Future Growth

Legacy Giving Consumer Benchmark Study

Over the past decade, the number of people who say they have written a charitable will has increased by 43% – with now 1 in 5 people saying they have done so.

Remember a Charity 2023 The consumer benchmark study explores the public’s attitudes to legacy giving, with regular surveys carried out since 2009. The latest survey was carried out by OKO in December 2022; an online survey of 2,000+ charity supporters across the UK, aged 40+. The research has been carried out by OKO since 2021, and nfpSynergy before that.

Changing behaviour

1 in 5

The proportion of adults in the UK who say they have written a will that includes a gift to charity.

Market forecast

Legacy income is forecast to remain stable at around £4bn per year for the next few years before returning to growth.

Legacy Foresight, Market Model 2023

Future growth in income

£10bn

The long-range forecast for legacy income is positive, expected to reach £10bn a year by 2050. A rising death rate, combined with wealthier, more charitably-minded donors will drive this growth.

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