The Future Of Legacy Giving

31 May 2017

The number and value of legacies left in wills has increased over the past decade and now represents more than £2 billion of income for charities in England & Wales.

The rise in the value of legacies can be attributed in part to an increase in property prices and share prices over the past decade as well as an appetite for legacy giving among charity supporters.

It is expected that the upward trend for legacy giving will continue long into the future although there are a number of legal and socio-economic factors which could impact the forecasting strategy for your charity.

Fundraising Regulation

This summer will see the introduction of the new Fundraising Preference Service implemented by the Fundraising Regulator. This service will fundamentally allow individuals to block all communications from named charities.

The opt-out from specified charities will apply to all forms of email, text, telephone and addressed mail communication and will not only be restricted to fundraising communications.

The Fundraising Preference Service is designed to ensure that individuals only receive the fundraising communications they want and whilst this will give the public greater control over the contact they receive from charities, this may have a detrimental effect on fundraising and indeed legacy campaigns.

Contested Probate

Contested legacy cases have risen by more than three times in the last decade and can be attributed to a number of factors including more complex family structures, economic hardship and perhaps a culture that is becoming increasingly litigious.

This trend may in part be down to a perception that charities should be grateful to receive any form of legacy, that charities may be sensitive to the possibility of negative PR, a soft touch and likely to settle on terms favourable to the person challenging the will. With all the other pressures on their time it can be tempting for charity trustees to consider a quick and easy settlement.

Trustees of a charity will be well aware that they are required to act in the best interests of their charity and protect and maximise the assets available to them (including any legacies due). In reality this can mean that trustees have to take certain steps to protect legacy income and could mean becoming involved in court proceedings if appropriate.


The recent referendum vote to leave the EU has seen caution being exercised in the property markets, particularly given the uncertainty over the strength of the underlying economy. Concerns as to falling house prices, fluctuating markets, proposals to cut public services and possible tax rises have doubtless weighed heavy on the minds of those considering their testamentary affairs. This could influence the level of financial provision for charities made in a person’s will—something charities may not feel the impact of for several years.

The actual impact of Brexit on legacy giving remains to be seen but what is clear is that the sooner we have certainty as to how Brexit will be implemented, the sooner confidence in the economy can be restored, which traditionally benefits charities.

At Barlow Robbins we have specialist teams who advise charities on legacy administration and the resolution of legacy disputes. If you have a legacy concern you would like to discuss then please feel free to contact

By Scott Taylor

For further advice on the above topics, please call us on 01483 543210 or alternatively email


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