SUR

Charitable legacies: still a long way to go

In comparison with other European countries, few people in Spain leave legacies to charities and many are not aware that it is possible

SUSANA ZAMORA

Nine years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. «It threatened to take away the most precious thing I have, which is my life,» recalls Josefa Andrade. Today, fully recovered from that difficult personal experience «thanks to research and the personalised treatment», she wants to return some of the generosity from which she benefited, and has done so through her will: Josefa, who is now 75, has left a legacy to the CRIS Contra el Cáncer foundation. «I have been a member for years and I admire the work they do in developing and financing projects. Research gives people life, and I am proof of that,» she says.

However, the 'legado solidario' as it is known, which consists of leaving property, money or material goods to an NGO, foundation or charity organisation, is not very common in Spain. The numbers of people who do so have grown in the past ten years, from 655 in 2010 to 1,026 last year, but these figures are still far behind those in other European countries.

«According to data from the General Council of Notaries, in 2019 in Spain there were 1,163 legacies of this type, amounting to around 205 million euros. The figure for the previous year is very similar. It also shows that 60 per cent of the beneficiaries were institutions associated with the Church and the other 40 per cent were NGOs and other secular organisations. In the same year in the UK, 3.2 billion pounds (about 3.7 billion euros) were left in people's wills, and cancer research was the most popular beneficiary,» says Marta Redondo, the head of the Inheritance and Legacies section of the CRIS Foundation.

Figures from the notaries support this. «Of the 500,000 wills registered in Spain each year, barely three per cent include legacies to charities,» says Ramón Blesa, who represents Malaga on the Managing Board of the Notarial College of Andalucía.

«Regrettably, it isn't very common here,» he says, and those who do make wills of this type tend to be people of deep religious faith with no partner or offspring. The web platform haztestamentosolidario.org, which brings together 23 non-profit-making organisations to promote this type of legacy, also shows the profile of a typical donor: they are usually women over the age of 45 with no children.

It is possible to leave something to charitable institutions in a will without affecting the legitimate inheritance of the heirs, because the testator can exercise their right to benefit whoever they like. «In Spain there is a lack of information about how a solidarity legacy works, even among our own members and at the moment there are 44,800 of them. More than half are unaware of it. But also, it is not customary in Spain. People don't usually leave part of their legacy to an NGO if they have children, whereas in other countries it is seen as perfectly normal to leave something to an organisation if you have been collaborating with it during your lifetime,» says Marta Redondo.

Last year the CRIS Foundation received three legacies totalling 146,662 euros. The money has been used to finance three pieces of research: one in Malaga, led by David Olmos, into prostate cancer, and the other two for cancer in children and ovarian cancer. They know that 13 people who made a will last year left a legacy for CRIS; that is the same number as the year before, when they received a total of 116,605 euros.

Although for the moment it is not known how many wills registered in Spain in the past few months have included a legacy for a charity, sources at CRIS are sure that the pandemic has made more people aware of the importance of research and this will result in more legacies in the next few years.

This belief is shared by Cudeca, a foundation which provides palliative care in Malaga province and which received 800,000 euros in legacies in 2020 (compared with 500,000 euros in 2019). This money came from seven wills (in two cases from the sale of properties), and it represents 20 per cent of their annual budget. «It was an exceptional year, but it was also coincidental. When you receive an inheritance it is the result of something which actually began years ago,» explains Rafael Olalla, the assistant manager and financial director of Cudeca, whose donors are mainly childless foreigners.

For Mariola Núñez, the pandemic made her think and she decided the time had come to make her will, something she had discussed many times with her family. This time, however, she decided to leave part of her legacy to CRIS Contra el Cáncer. «My husband said to me: 'But what has that foundation got to do with you?' I told him that they do research and that research is the way to end cancer. I believe it is a commitment that we need to have as a society, especially now with the pandemic,» Mariola says.

With regard to the procedure, as Ramón Blesa explains, «when we receive a will which includes a donation to charity, we notaries have to send the NGO a copy of the relevant clauses so they can exercise their right to receive the inheritance.» Previously, when a will was drawn up, the notary had to state the name, address and fiscal number of the foundation or NGO so there could be no doubt and the wishes of the testator could be fulfilled.

Cudeca also points out that these legacies in favour of charitysocial organisations are not subject to inheritance tax.