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UK legacy income to remain resilient at around £3.9bn a year

New research from Legacy Foresight has revealed that charity income from legacy giving is set to remain broadly stable at around £3.9bn per year having reached £3.85bn in 2022. 

Charity income from gifts in wills is forecast to remain resilient over the coming years, continuing at around this level for the next few years, despite ongoing economic challenges.

The Spring analysis Legacy Market Outlook 2023-2027 presents the latest forecast for the UK charity legacy market, reflecting updates to scenarios for the national economy, current numbers of deaths and related administrative processes since its previous quarterly forecast in October 2022.

Insight is based on data from the charity sector’s Legacy Monitor Consortium, combined with current big picture economic and social trends to create an in-depth analysis of the charity legacy sector.

It shows that a subdued economic environment, driven by an expected drop in house prices and share price volatility, is likely to drive reductions in the average value of residual gifts over the next couple of years.

However, an announced expansion of probate staff numbers at HM Courts & Tribunals Service, combined with the long-term upwards trend in the number of deaths, is likely to boost bequest numbers to around 145,000 per year over the next five years.

As a result, annual legacy income is expected to remain stable for the next few years with a long-term upward growth trajectory.

The findings in depth

Annual charitable bequests forecast to rise 

The UK saw 656,000 deaths over the 12 months to the end of December – 1.2% higher than the 646,000 previously predicted by Office of National Statistics.The ageing population means deaths are expected to continue rising on a long-term upward trend over the next five years. By 2027, annual rates are likely to be similar to the levels seen during the pandemic.

In Legacy Foresight’s central scenario, recovery in the probate backlog along with rising deaths could see bequest numbers reach around 145,000 per year over the forecast period. This is approximately 11% higher than the 131,000 bequests per year seen on average between 2018 and 2022. However, Legacy Foresight’s range of forecasts shows some uncertainty here, with potential for numbers to level off at less than 142,000 in its pessimistic scenario. This is based on no probate recovery and tendency to leave a gift dropping back to previous levels.

Jon Franklin, Economist at Legacy Foresight – the research and analysis arm of the Legacy Futures Group, said:

“Despite the economic headwinds, it is unlikely that legacy income will fall dramatically in coming years. The long-term upward trend in the number of deaths will lead to increases in the number of gifts which will largely offset the impact of anticipated falls in house prices.”

Ashley Rowthorn, Group CEO at Legacy Futures, added:

“While the forecast remains promising, this is not a time for complacency. The charity legacy market is becoming increasingly competitive with more organisations entering this space and, despite the volume of legacies increasing, the average gift value is likely to decrease, at least in the short term. Charities will need to understand market conditions, how these are affecting their supporters and be relevant in their fundraising to secure legacy income for the future.”

Economic challenges will see average values stagnate 

The average value of residual gifts has driven an average growth of around 2.8% per year over the last decade. However, the subdued economic environment is likely to drive reductions over the next couple of years. In Legacy Foresight’s central case it expects average values to fall by around 3% between 2022 and 2024. Its case suggests that this decline could be as much as 7% however, should there be more substantial falls in house prices.

Income to remain broadly stable 

However, despite the challenges, in its central scenario Legacy Foresight expects legacy income for the sector to remain broadly stable at around £3.9bn per year. This is lower than the October 2022 forecast of £4.2bn, reflecting the slower than previously anticipated economic recovery and struggling housing market.

Legacy Foresight highlights the risk that legacy income could fall by around 5% over the next couple of years; however, it does not anticipate significant declines. This means legacies should remain a relatively resilient source of income for charities during what is likely to be a challenging period for fundraising.

Remember A Charity director, Lucinda Frostick commented:

“This forecast conveys the resilience of the legacy market, providing stability for charities and significant income even in the toughest of times. Appetite for legacy giving remains high and, even for those who are tightening their purse strings, it’s proving to be an increasingly attractive option to make a sizeable impact without immediate financial outlay.”

Additionally, and looking at big picture economic pressures on the charity sector, it should be noted that higher costs are likely to mean that real spending power will fall too, by 4% to 13% between 2022 and 2024, with a central estimate of an 8% decline.

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