2022 was a record-breaking year for charity legacy income

Published 20 April 2023

Our latest trends data reveals that 2022 was a record-breaking year for legacy income to charities in England and Wales.

Smee & Ford identified 37,053 charitable estates out of a total of 269,699 estates processed in 2022 that included a Will; meaning around 14% of probated estates with Wills are charitable.

Organisations reporting legacy income to the Charity Commission – covering all financial year-ends between July 2021 and June 2022 – increased to £3.3bn, a 13.2% increase on the previous year (£2.9bn). These organisations represent the largest legacy recipients in the country and receive at least £500k of total annual income. For charities who do not report legacy income with the Charity Commission (those with a total income of less than £500k), our calculations show that legacy income was worth £447m in 2022. This is significantly higher than in previous years, showing that more legacy income is being distributed to charities with lower total annual income.

Combining these figures, we estimate that total legacy income to charities increased to around £3.7bn in 2022. This is positive news for the charity sector, being the largest total we have ever recorded.

Income Graph2 Apr23 Resized

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The value of charitable estates also saw a significant increase, from £19.9bn in 2021 to £ in 2022 – a 7% growth and the first time values have exceeded £20bn.

Estate value growth is important to legacies because growth in estate values translates to growth in the values of residual bequests. In recent years, we have seen growth in the average value of charitable estates, from £496k in 2017 to £576k in 2022. Over the past year, the average value of a charitable estate has increased by 8%.

It is encouraging to see total legacy income for charities reach a record high in 2022, as well as a new milestone reached for the value of charitable estates. We hope that legacies will remain resilient in the face of the current economic climate, and remain committed to supporting the sector with valuable market insight throughout this year and beyond.

Other key findings in the Legacy Trends report include:

  • In 2022 there were 10,627 unique charitable organisations mentioned in Wills, the second highest we have recorded over the past decade
  • 37.1% of charitable Wills contained just one named charity and 21.7% contained 2 charities. The highest number of charities named in one Will in 2022 was 79
  • There were 37,053 charitable estates in 2022, nearly the same number as reported last year
Read the full report here