A parliamentary inquiry has called for a push to encourage people to make wills and that will-writers should inform all clients that they are able to leave money to charity in them.
The cross-party report, Creating an age of giving, said that the £2.05bn left to charities in wills represents 5% of their total income – but only 6% of people make a bequest to charity, despite inheritance tax changes that encourage greater giving.
However, it also found “positive trends that bode well for an increase in legacy giving”, with the percentage of will-writers who never prompt about charity falling from 22% in 2011 to 10% in 2013. The number who always do is also on the up.
The inquiry, which was supported by the Charities Aid Foundation, was co-chaired by former Labour cabinet minister David Blunkett, Conservative MP Andrew Percy and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Tyler.
They said: “One of the problems that accounts for relatively low levels of legacy giving is that at present two-thirds of adults do not have a will, and this is particularly true amongst the under-50s.
“Action must be taken to encourage more people to write a will, and it is this will writing process that needs to be used to encourage greater legacy giving. Other barriers include a lack of awareness, and the fact that legacy giving has not yet become a social norm.”
The report said research carried out by the Cabinet Office’s behavioural insights team discovered that prompting a person making a will about the possibility of leaving a legacy trebled the number of people choosing to give in this way.
It continued: “The personal approach uncovered by the behavioural insights team suggests that using the conversation a person has with their solicitor when writing a will to introduce them to legacy giving could translate to great growth in legacy giving.
Once established, this could be broadened to include other methods of writing a will to reach out to a greater segment of the population. Not only would this encourage will writers and charities to work closely together in encouraging more people to leave a will, but it would give people the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy to society.
“We recommend that will makers should inform clients that they are able to use their will to leave a legacy to charity, providing information about how legacies work in practice and an explanation of the taxation implications that can be induced when leaving a legacy.”
All IPW members recognise the importance of charitable giving and are trained from the outset to discuss with their clients the advantages of leaving a legacy in their will.
Sally Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW), welcomed the recommendation, which she said endorsed the training the institute provides. “IPW members are provided with model instruction-taking forms that include reference to legacy giving and this acts as a prompt to our members when they are taking instructions from their clients.
“The training that all of our new members receive also includes the importance, and tax implications, of charitable giving in a will.”