Giving by Estates

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

According to the baseline projection alone, giving by estates would have increased in 2018 and 2019. The exceptional circumstances created by tax policy changes have complicated this picture. Click here for a more detailed analysis.

The amount that an estate bequeaths largely 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 factors that will most significantly and positively influence estate giving in 2018 and 2019 include:

  • Above-average growth in the S&P 500, and
  • Close-to-average to above average growth in household and nonprofit net worth in preceding years.65

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

Giving by estates can vary greatly from year to year. This volatility is mostly due to very large bequests made by a few estates in a given year. Therefore, a significant increase one year will suppress the growth rate in giving the following year. The projected increase in bequest giving in 2018 and 2019 will hold unless substantially large gifts are made in 2017 or 2018.