Charities & Not for Profit

Publish date

25 January 2021

The importance of correctly naming charities when leaving legacy gifts

A recent High Court judgement (Knipe v British Racing Drivers’ Motor Sport Charity and others [2020] EWHC 3295 (Ch)) has highlighted the importance of ensuring that great care and attention to detail is taken when drawing up a will which includes legacy gifts to charities.

The ruling relates to the will of a retired racing driver Barrie Williams, who passed away in 2018. The will included legacies to the ‘British Racing Drivers Club Benevolent Fund’ and the ‘Cancer Research Fund’. While that may seem like a fairly straight forward request, problems arose as there are no charities in existence with those exact names.

This meant the executor of the estate was not able to go ahead with payment of any legacies until the court resolved the issue of who was entitled to receive the gifts the will made.

The High Court ruling says the first gift was most likely intended for the British Racing Drivers’ Motor Sport Charity, an organisation with which the former racing driver had a long-standing connection.

However, after taking into account evidence from the executor, the court decided that in terms of the ‘Cancer Research Fund’ the legacy was to be applied for the general charitable purpose of cancer research.

Commenting on his decision, Justice Paul Matthews said: “Even if I were wrong, and it were intended to refer to a particular institution, on this material it is clear that the identity of the particular institution would not be critical to the gift.

“Given the existence of other charitable elements in the will, there would be no difficulty in discerning a general charitable intent in this case.”

This case shows just how vital it is for individuals to ensure that their will is correctly drafted. A lot of time, money and effort can be saved by double checking fairly simple details.

It is also a good warning for charities to provide guidance on this issue when they ask supporters to consider including a legacy in their wills.

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