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Charitable bequests from wills at an all-time high

Wills admitted to probate in 2022 included more charitable bequests than in any previous year on record, according to research by Smee & Ford. While final figures have not yet been confirmed, their conservative estimate is that the total value of charitable legacies made in 2022 will amount to around £3.5 billion. Legacy Foresight take a more optimistic view, and estimate that total legacy income for 2022 will reach £4 billion, a 14% increase on the previous year.

Smee & Ford’s research also shows that a large number of these charitable gifts were of substantial value – 31% of the total income received consisted of bequests exceeding £500,000, and more than 50% of the total income from bequests exceeding £100,000.

This further highlights a trend that has now been observed for some time, that charities are coming to rely on gifting from wills as a substantial source of income. With pressures likely to increase over the coming year – driven by the rising cost of living, and falling house prices reducing the overall value of bequests – it will be more important than ever for charities to understand their rights (and indeed their obligations) with regards to gifts made to them from wills.  Although the number of legacies in wills have increased, we know that delays with probate continue to plague the system and the time between death and charities receiving those legacies is sadly getting longer.

We anticipate that there may also be a rise in claims against estates, will challenges and claims pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, brought by disappointed family members and beneficiaries, in light of these economic pressures.  These claims can prove challenging for charity beneficiaries, who must balance their obligation to protect the legacies kindly gifted to them whilst also considering and managing the reputational issues.

At Charles Russell Speechlys, our contentious and non-contentious wills and estates teams work closely together, and we have extensive experience of advising charities who need support in relation to gifts left to them in wills. If you would like to discuss your particular circumstances, please contact Richard Honey or Katelyn Silver.

The total value of charitable estates exceeded the prediction of £20bn in our September update, finishing on £21.3bn, the highest on record.

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