Charities as Beneficiaries of Wills

There are circumstances where supporters of charities may indicate an intention to benefit a charity in their Will. This is especially for those who are in the care of charities and are frail and elderly.

In this case we look at a recent decision of the Supreme Court of NSW which highlights the need for charities, even those long established and credible, to have prudent measures in place to guard their credibility and reputation.

In the case of  – Dickman v Holley; Estate of Simpson [2013] NSWSC 18  – a disappointed  beneficiary who was under a recent previous Will succeeded in having the gift to the charity overturned and was awarded costs against the charity even after the passing of some time.

In our experience more disappointed beneficiaries, whether family or not are prepared to contest a charitable gift or bequest. In this particular case the disappointed beneficiary was not a relative of the deceased and merely having a “bequest clause” is not enough.

It is therefore important that a charity is careful and maintains an appropriately distant relationship from the intended benefactor. They must also strive to ensure any suggestion of undue influence or coercion (even by others than the charity) is demonstratively without foundation.

A lawyer making a will for anyone, especially when frailty of any kind is evident, has an enormously high duty to that person. Lawyers acting for charities should now consider even more carefully whether they should in any way act for proposed benefactors (whether in wills or otherwise) of that charity.

On a side note, the types of gifts to charities should also be carefully considered as a gift of real property for example can trigger Capital Gain Tax.

If you would like to bequest monies to charities as beneficiaries, contact us.

Contact our client engagement team and make an appointment with one of our will and estate lawyers today. Call (07) 3252 0011.

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