New Smee & Ford data shows highest number of charities named in wills in over a decade

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New Smee & Ford data shows highest number of charities named in wills in over a decade

New Smee & Ford data shows highest number of charities named in wills in over a decade


Smee & Ford’s annual trends report reveals that 10,670 unique charitable organisations were named in wills in 2021, the highest number on record.

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As the graph shows, usually between 9,500-10,000 charities are mentioned in wills each year. Of the 10,670 charities named in wills in 2021, around 2,000 were mentioned for the first time since Smee & Ford started collecting this data a decade ago. Out of these new organisations, 21% were religious, 15% culture and heritage organisations and 13% community projects, demonstrating that a wide variety of charities are benefitting from the generosity of legators remembering them in their wills.  

Charitable estates grew by more than 10% year-on-year

37,242 charitable estates were identified in 2021 – a 10.7% increase on the year before and the highest number recorded by Smee & Ford in the last five years. 2019 and 2020 were impacted by processing and system changes at the HMCTS as well as the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of charitable estates Smee & Ford identified in 2021 increased by 3,592 on 2020 and considering that there are on average three bequests per will, this increase equates to over 10,000 additional charitable bequests.

The picture so far for 2022

Speaking at the Legacy Strategy Summit this week, Mark Pincher, Head of Data at Smee & Ford commented “In the first half of 2022 we have seen a similar number of charitable estates to 2021.  Although overall estate values are higher than last year, the value of bequests are slightly down due to fewer high value estates identified so far,”

“The overall picture for 2022 so far is a positive one, and if things follow the same trajectory, we could see estate values reaching £19bn by the end of 2022 indicating another strong year for legacy income.”

Other key findings in the Legacy Trends Report include:

  • This year reported legacy income has dropped to £2.7bn and we estimate total legacy income is more than £3.2bn
  • 37.4% of charitable wills contained just one named charity and 21.7% contained 2 charities. The highest number of charities named in one will in 2021 was 61
  • Nationally around 14% of probated estates with wills are charitable, with 1 in 5 wills being charitable in many areas of the south-east & south-west compared to 1 in 8 to 10 in many areas of the north-west and Wales.

You can download a copy of the latest Legacy Trends Report here.

About Smee & Ford

Smee & Ford has more than 125 years’ experience in legacies. Our team reads over 5,000 Wills every week, identifying and reporting on any charitable content. Our legacy notification service ensures that charities receive timely information on specific legacies left to them, whether they are left in Wills or left in trusts for unspecified charitable purposes.

Smee & Ford have also built the only fully comprehensive database of legacy giving. Our database now holds a decade of data, including records of all bequests to charities dating back to 2012. This data allows us to delve deep into patterns of legacy giving, enabling us to produce insightful reports and support charities with all aspects of their legacy strategies and forecasting. We can also produce bespoke reports based on what is most meaningful for your charity.

Smee & Ford marketing solutions combine the expertise of advertising with our legacy sector knowledge, enabling you to increase your reach to potential legators. For an initial exploratory chat, get in touch with

For further information contact:

Stacey Barnes, Head of Marketing
Phone: 020 7566 5779

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