The number of people leaving donations to charities in their wills has risen by 56 per cent in the past 12 months, according to figures from Co-op Legal Services.

Overall numbers rose particularly sharply in the first few weeks of the coronavirus lockdown, the firm added, with an 81 per cent uplift in the amount of people choosing to leave gifts to charities between 23 March and 30 June compared with the same period the previous year.

In terms of where people wanted their money to go, cancer charities topped the list for the third year running, followed by specific local causes and animal charities.

James Antoniou, head of wills and senior solicitor at Co-op Legal Services, said the additional legacy funding could prove crucial to charitable causes.

He added: “Interestingly, in addition to monetary gifts, we’ve seen some unique personal effects such as a collection of guitars and a classic red Mini being left to charity through wills.

“This increase in generosity will make a huge difference to charitable causes and just shows why it’s so important for people wanting to make this difference that they do put a will in place.”