Lotto, Legacies and Inheritance

This is a letter published in the Sunday Independent 23/1/2022 as a response to a letter the previous week on the scale of inheritances in Ireland.


In a week when the country went Lotto mad, it was interesting that Sean Sheridan in the letters page highlighted the scale of inherited wealth – as published weekly in this paper’s update of estate values – of people who have passed away. Someone in Mayo won €19m in the lotto. The total for the value of the eight estates listed in the same week was €17.58m. The previous three weeks’ totals were €18.84m, €13.74m and €33.45m – or an average of €20.9m! These are just a fraction of the overall numbers each week. If even 1% was left to charities in all those 34 wills, this would total almost €1m (€836k). Its hard to imagine that family members would object to receiving 99% instead of 100% of the estate.

It has been estimated that there is a minimum annual transfer of wealth from one generation to the next of at least €5.5bn in Ireland – and probably more. From research undertaken, we know that the number of people leaving any gift in their will to a charity is low. We also know that more charities and an umbrella organisation – MyLegacy – are promoting the idea to charity supporters and members of the public generally. It is a really simple – and lovely thing to do. As Sean points out in his letter, there are many countries where a fraction of our inherited wealth could do so much for so many. There are also of course many charities doing great work in Ireland who are worthy beneficiaries.

With climate change the greatest single threat to mankind, we also know from research that  environment charities in Ireland (in total) receive no more than a handful of smaller legacy gifts in any given year.

There is huge power in wealth and huge power in giving. It would be wonderful to more people in Ireland giving to charities in their will.

Niall O’Sullivan

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