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Animal charities most popular for legacies, according to First4Lawyers figures

Animal charities most popular for legacies, according to First4Lawyers figures

One in five people leave a gift in their Wills, with the majority of left going to animal charities, research from First4Lawyers has shown.

First4Lawyers collated data on 2016 donation income from 15 of the UK’s biggest charities, and polled 2,000 people. Its figures show that gifts in Wills total an average £2 billion each year, with cancer charities receiving the biggest income from legacies but the highest number (43%) of legacies going to animal charities.

According to First4Lawyers’s analysis of annual reports, out of the top 15 charities, Cancer Research UK received the most from legacies last year at £187m, from 6,000 gifts in Wills. RNLI was second with £118.5m, followed by Macmillan, at £76.8m.  The RSPCA received £71.4 million: three times more than the NSPCC, which received £23.4 million, with the PDSA, RSPB and Dogs Trust also all in the top 15 for income from legacies.


















% of people who leave a gift in their Will to each cause:

  • Animal-related 42.93%
  • Cancer-related 32.46%
  • Other illnesses 20.42%
  • Child-related 6.81%
  • Poverty-related 13.61%
  • Other 18.32%

Of those surveyed, half say they are leaving the majority of their money and assets to their children while 1 in 8 do not plan leave their children anything. Over 90% of people will not be leaving anything for parents or friends, and 80% say siblings will not be included in their Wills. The survey also found older age groups less likely to leave a gift to charity: 1 In 5 of those aged 45+ said they would do so, compared to half of 18-24 year olds with a Will. Two-thirds of those who have not made a Will are over 55.

First4Lawyers also found high levels of unawareness around the effect leaving money to charity can have on inheritance tax liability, with 80% unaware that leaving a gift to charity can reduce inheritance tax. The age groups least aware of this were 18-24 year olds (93%), and 25-34 year olds (87%). However, once made aware of the fact, they were also the most persuaded groups to leave a charity donation (40%), compared to over 55s (11%).

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson at First4Lawyers said:

“It’s intriguing to see how many people are unaware that leaving a gift to charity can reduce inheritance tax, and that now armed with that knowledge, a quarter of people would be persuaded to change their mind.”

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Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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  • Fenris Wolf

    Why is it considered reasonable for solicitors and other will writers to try to persuade people to disinherit their relatives so that charities can afford to pay their chief executives and other top ranking employees vastly inflated salaries?

    Even worse is the way that some charities are not above effectively destroying the family in their unseemly race to get their hands on the “loot”, instituting court actions often preceded by letters that are demanding and bullying in tone.

    Until such nasty actions cease everyone should refuse to put their next of kin in the hands of the greedy charity robber barons.

    • Disinherit? Which solicitors have made that suggestion? If you know of any you might want to report them to the Law Society.

      You suggest a causal link between solicitors inviting people to leave a charitable bequest and charities paying their chief executives. Can you back that up? Can you provide evidence that charities have worked with solicitors/will-writers so that they may specifically pay “vastly inflated salaries”? We’ll leave the definition and accuracy of that to another time.

      If not, then it looks like an easily made but unsubstantiated allegation. That’s not the kind of throwaway remark we usually publish on this site.

      Instituting court actions is sadly part of a charity’s legal obligations today. If money has been bequeathed to a charity then that money is legally the charity’s, and trustees (voluntary board members) also have a legal obligation (under risk of personal liability) to pursue that pledged money. Many Wills are challenged each year, including those that have no charitable element at all.

      Why do some solicitors mention charitable legacies to their clients? It’s their professional duty: leaving a charitable bequest can have tax benefits to their estate and therefore to their family. So, the family can actually benefit from this advice.

      Don’t worry: only 7% of people in the UK include a charitable bequest of any amount in their Wills. So, you could argue that solicitors and charities are not doing a good enough job.

      • Fenris Wolf

        Every penny that is diverted to charity is a penny that does not go to the relatives. That is disinheritance.

        If charities don’t get the funds then they will re-assess what they do with the available fund. Until that happens they will continue to pay bloated salaries.


        So the con becomes clear. Leaving 10% of your estate to charity actually leaves your beneficiaries worse off. What on earth is the incentive to do this?

        Solicitors should NOT be “nudging” their clients to do anything, and they should most certainly NOT be using psychology to trigger the response they want.

        The job of the solicitor is to work to obtain the best solution for the client, and if they appear to have worked instead for the best solution for a charity then inevitably someone, somewhere is going to sue.

        “As a simplified example, consider an estate worth £1m, of which £730,000 would normally go to the beneficiaries and £270,000 to HMRC. If 10 per cent of that £1m estate above the £325,000 nil-rate band was left to charity, the beneficiaries would receive £713,800, HMRC £218,700 and the charity £67,500.

        Is saving tax really that important?

        Not for the majority. Most people’s estates are not large enough to pay IHT. But the marked increase in the IHT relief for charitable donations since 2012 suggests tax considerations make a difference to some of the large bequests that dominate the figures.

        Other factors are important too. Researchers have found that solicitors could “nudge” their clients into making charitable donations when they made their wills. Asking people, “would you like to leave a gift to charity in your will?” made them slightly more likely to do so. Asking them “are there any causes you are passionate about?” at the same time made them significantly more likely to do so.”

        Instituting court actions has led to very negative press coverage and ludicrously charities claiming on one hand that they must take action to enforce the ‘wish’ of the donor and on the other hand charities moving to attempt to negate a later will that didn’t favour them.

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