Giving by Estates

2017 5.4 2018 5.2

Giving by estates includes cash and non-cash donations (bequests) contributed by all U.S. estates—including those that itemize their charitable contributions on their estate taxes and those that do not—to U.S. charities.

Giving by estates is predicted to increase by 5.4% in 2017 and by 5.2% in 2018.*

The amount that an estate bequeaths significantly depends on asset health at the time of the donor’s passing. If the growth in assets held by estates slows, less will be given in the form of bequests.

The current projections for giving by estates for the years 2017 and 2018 are below the historical 25-year and 40-year average rates of growth for giving of this type, but above the 10-year average rate of growth of 0.9%.21

The factors that will most significantly and positively influence estate giving in 2017 and 2018 will be:

  • Above-average growth in the S&P 500, and
  • Close-to-average growth in household and nonprofit net worth in preceding years.22

The prior two factors will account for the majority of the predicted growth in giving by estates in these years.

Giving by estates can shift substantially from year to year. This volatility is mostly due to very large bequests made by a few estates in a given year. Therefore, a large increase in one year will suppress the growth rate in giving the following year. The projected increases in bequest giving in 2017 and 2018 will hold unless substantially large gifts are made in 2016 or 2017.

* All growth rates are based on predictions for giving in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars using 2016 as the base year. The Philanthropy Outlook projects the growth rates of variables into 2017 and 2018; predicted growth rates are compared with the variables’ historical 10-, 25-, and 40-year annualized means. See Table 1 for these data.