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Latest legacy income forecasts rise slightly in optimism for 2020

Latest legacy income forecasts rise slightly in optimism for 2020

Legacy Foresight’s latest forecasts for 2020 have risen slightly since the last forecast was produced at the end of April.

Legacy Foresight has updated its projections of the impact of the coronavirus on UK legacy incomes, taking account of the latest available economic, demographic and administrative information.

They show mixed performance across these three factors since the last forecast, with the position improving in some aspects and weakening in others.

Overall, its latest forecasts for 2020 are slightly more optimistic than those produced in April, while over the five-year forecast period it continues to expect total legacy incomes to grow, reaching £3.6bn to £3.8bn by 2024.

As in April, it has developed two five-year scenarios for the UK legacy market: a relatively optimistic scenario which assumes that the government’s Covid-19 response is more successful and a relatively pessimistic scenario where Covid-19 proves more challenging to control both in the UK and across the world.

Jon Franklin, economist at Legacy Foresight, said:

“Our scenarios now suggest that legacy cash income could fall by between 4% and 23% in 2020, reflecting the economic environment as well as the delays in the sale of property assets from estates caused by a slow-moving housing market. However, as administrative delays unwind and income starts to flow from the anticipated increase in bequests, it’s likely that income could rise quite rapidly during 2021 and 2022.”

“We recently analysed cash legacy income from 12 Legacy Monitor charities in the first six weeks of lockdown. Across the sample, like for like cash income was down by 18% on 2019. Although this fall is significant, it’s not as severe as expected, which is heartening news for legacy managers and finance directors. We expect the situation to improve over the coming months, as charities continue to adapt their systems for collecting cash and recording bequest numbers in the new environment.”

The outlook for 2020: key findings

Based on the latest available economic, demographic and administrative information:

  • Cash legacy income could shrink by between 4% and 23% in 2020. The impact on accrued income is likely to be less severe, although this will be dependent on the accruals policies of individual charities
  • The average value of residual bequests is likely to drop by between 3% and 7% in 2020 due to the impact of the crisis on house prices and share prices
  • Charities and other organisations involved in the administrative processing of estates have adapted relatively quickly to the crisis, so delays on the arrival of bequest notifications should be fairly limited
  • However, there is still potential for the flow of cash income to be disrupted by increases in the length of time taken to sell property assets in a subdued property market

The outlook for the next five years

  • Latest scenarios assume that there will be between 25,000 and 35,000 additional deaths over the whole 5-year forecast period as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Legacy Foresight focuses on ‘additional deaths’ as they exclude the deaths that are likely to have occurred over the forecast period even in the absence of COVID-19. These figures are more relevant when assessing the impact of the crisis on bequest numbers and legacy income.
  • Over the whole 5-year forecast period UK charities will receive around 1.2%- 1.6% more bequests than they would otherwise have done in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic; which is the equivalent of 8,000-10,000 additional bequests
  • Over the five-year period we still expect legacy income to grow by between 9% and 13% – increasing from £3.4bn in 2019 to £3.6bn-£3.8bn in 2024

Commenting, Matthew Lagden, CEO of the Institute of Legacy Management, said:

“There is no question that that last two months have been exceptionally difficult, both for our members and for the probate profession as a whole, but it is heartening to see that the ability of the sector to adapt and overcome these difficulties means that income may not be as depressed as we originally feared. It is even more heartening to see that the prospects for legacy income over the next five years remain buoyant.”

Rob Cope, director of Remember A Charity, added:

“Voluntary income will often come in peaks and troughs, but this year has been more uncertain than ever. Despite the challenges to estate values, it’s legacy income that has sustained many charities and frontline services throughout the crisis. This long-term income stream will become all the more important in the months and years ahead.

“The pandemic has made it exceptionally challenging for charities to raise the topic of legacy giving with supporters at a time when mortality is very much front of mind. But by working together, we have the opportunity to convey the importance of gifts in Wills collectively and secure vital charitable services now and long into the future.”


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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