UK charities lose millions as legacies overlooked in wills, Farewill urges action

The UK’s biggest charities are missing out on millions of pounds in much-needed income because people forget or neglect to put a legacy in their final will and testament. Farewill is urging people to think about the legacy they want to leave behind so that causes close to their hearts are not forgotten.

Calling for people to have frank conversations with those they love, Dan Garrett, the founder of Farewill revealed that £1 billion has now been pledged in donations to charities, from those who have used the online platform to write their will. This figure would fund vital care and support for over 16,000 people through Marie Curie, ensure thousands of households can receive support from Shelter and remove rubbish and pollution from hundreds of thousands of miles of beaches.

Charities have been struggling to raise funds for their vital work during the cost of living crisis, exacerbated by a backlog in probate cases. Currently charities are missing out on £800 million in legacy pledges, as the probate service struggles with increased demand. Since legacies make up between 20 to 40% of a charity’s income, on average, this delay is causing cash shortfalls in vital funding and charities are trying to reach donors through new means, including technology.

Over 60,000 people have made pledges through Farewill to the causes and organisations they feel most passionate about, from the UK’s leading charities such as Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation, to smaller organisations such as The Donkey Sanctuary and Surfers Against Sewage. Craig Fordham, Director of Operational Delivery & Legacies at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

“The £1 billion in will pledges is a phenomenal legacy from the British public and shows how generous people can be. It will have an enormous impact on all the charities Farewill works with and help to ensure these organisations can make a difference in the world. At Macmillan Cancer Support 40% of our total income came from gifts in wills last year. We are so thankful for all those who choose to support us in this way – we know sometimes this is to pay forward care they or a loved one have had and that is very special.”

Dan Garrett, founder and CEO of Farewill, said:

“We are thrilled to have hit £1 billion in legacy pledges for charity. This is a testament to the generosity of the British public to support the causes they are most passionate about. It’s more important than ever for people to have frank conversations with those they love and prepare for the future. Any legacy in a will could make a huge difference by providing charities with the critical income they need to continue research, provide care for the vulnerable or services for people or animals in need. We’re inspired by the opportunity to support charities of all sizes through Farewill and make it easier for them to do their vital work.”

What’s more, two-fifths (40%) of people want to leave a donation in their will but on average, only 14% of deaths result in a gift to charity. This is because legacies can often get forgotten during the will-writing process. Yet, legacy donations have long been an important fundraising tool for charities.

The startup partners with charities to enable them to offer free will writing services through their website. A charity’s patrons can have a will written for free with the option to leave a percentage of their estate to the charity, so they can support an organisation they care about and reduce their estate’s inheritance tax from 40% to 36%. Today 37% of the platform’s wills contain legacies, double the industry standard.

Good causes that people care about most when leaving legacies include cancer causes (43.15%), animal welfare (16.55%) and health (13.96%). Since Farewill started tracking donations, more money has been donated by people living in Greater London (23.26%), than in any other part of the UK. But people across the UK are leaving legacies to numerous charities, with the most generous regions including the South East (16.9%) and South West (12.3%).

Legacy donations are increasingly important to UK charities when regular donations have struggled because of the Cost of Living Crisis. Donations fell in 2022 and 2021, with the proportion of people giving decreasing to 57%, down from 62% in 2020. Although people are feeling worse off, they are still writing generous legacy donations into wills. With nearly £1 in every £3 raised for charity coming from wills, an effective digital legacy strategy is critical for charities of all sizes, which Farewill is supporting at scale.

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.