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A lost cause? What happens if my chosen charity changes its name or ceases to exist?

Russell-Cooke private client partner
James Cook
2 min Read

Partner James Cook highlights the potential pitfalls that may jeopardise your intention to include a charitable legacy in your will while exploring how to safeguard your legacy.

When leaving a legacy in your will to charity, you must be careful to ensure that the charity is correctly described for fear of the legacy lapsing or failing. That said, there may be circumstances outside of your control that result in your chosen charity either changing its name or ceasing to exist prior to your death.

How to safeguard your legacy 

Charity name change 

In the first instance, a change in the name of a charity should not invalidate a charitable legacy provided that the charity in question can be identified. The surest way to safeguard such a legacy is to include the registered charity number, where applicable, in your will. 

Charity merger

Similarly, where a charity has merged and details have been entered in the register of mergers maintained by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, then the gift to the transferee charity should take effect.

Charity ceases to exist

Where the charity no longer exists prior to death the basic rule is that the legacy fails or lapses for want of a beneficiary. This rule may, in limited circumstances, be disregarded if the will, read as a whole, discloses a general charitable intention. For these purposes, general charitable intention may include unrestricted legacies and the existence of several other charitable legacies in the will.
There are many benefits for giving to charity in a will, however, it is important to ensure that the drafting is accurate and fit for purpose. Furthermore, the above is a good reminder to regularly review a will, specifically the named beneficiaries. 
At Russell-Cooke, the private client team can provide guidance on wills and assist you on leaving a legacy in your will to your chosen charity. 
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If you would like to speak with a member of the team you can contact our philanthropy law solicitors by email, by telephone on +44 (0)20 3826 7510 or complete our enquiry form below.

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