Encouraging charitable bequests by Australians

Philanthropists charitable giving

At the heart of this research is the quest to provide a robust evidentiary base for the development of policy and practices aimed at encouraging charitable bequests by Australians. This report identifies the following...

  • Participation in charitable bequest giving is higher for those with the greatest capacity than it is for those with less capacity.
  • By participation rate: final estates with a net value of more than $2m included a charitable bequest at three times the rate of estates with a net value of less than $0.5m (18.3% : 6%).
  • By proportional contribution: while the highest value estates did gift a higher share of their value to charity, across the sample as a whole there was no statistically significant relationship between the value of estates and the proportion of those estates directed to charitable bequests.
  • While these findings do not provide insight into the extent to which older Australians are acting on their reported increased propensity to spend rather than to protect assets to leave them to the children, the findings of this study show no evidence (yet) in support of the observation by of Olsberg and Winters (2005) that the attitudes of older Australians are moving away from obligation to leave assets to the kids.
  • The probate data demonstrates that in cases where there were remaining estate assets, those assets went overwhelmingly to the children.
  • Estates with no surviving children were significantly more likely to make a charitable gift than those with a surviving child or children.
  • Where children survive, they receive the estate. 
  • Where more than one child survives the parent, then the children mostly receive the estate in equal share, irrespective of age, gender, need or relative wealth.
  • The presence of this apparently deeply seated norm of familial primacy may well result in a selfreinforcing corollary of the absence of social expectation of charitable bequest giving.
  • Nevertheless, 29% of will‐makers deviated in some way from this prevailing pattern of the distribution of an estate in its entirety to the children in equal share.
  • While the prevailing patterns are undoubtedly pervasive, as Australians can and do make conscious decisions to act outside the standard estate distribution ractices: there is a clear opportunity to influence more Australians to include a charitable bequest.
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