Charitable confusion

A widow with no immediate family left a significant gift in her Will to the Shrine of Saint Anthony of Padua Capuchin Friars Minor Hawthorn – Melbourne Victoria." Unfortunately, this was not a legal entity and also it was not clear from the Will for what purpose the funds were to be given.  Was the gift for the upkeep of the shrine or to support the work of the monks associated with the shrine?  The executors of the Will sought directions from the Court on the basis that the gift was "ambiguous".  Judge Ward held that there was nothing in the evidence to indicate a more general intention to benefit the Order (i.e., other than as associated with the Shrine itself). She held that the executors would be justified in paying the gift to the Trustees of the Order of the Capuchin Friars Minor and that they should pay the funds to maintain the Shrine and for activities of the Order.  This case is a reminder that when making a charitable gift in a Will it is important to identify the charity with precision and to specify the purpose of the gift.  The impression from the reported case is that the executors were hoping that a wider purpose would be found.  (see Re estate of the late Stasha Berger [2020] NSWSC 750 (18 June 2020).

 

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