In the area of legacy disputes (or contentious probate), we regularly deal with situations where a charity is a beneficiary of a will but the disappointed relatives take the view that the charity has received a "windfall" and should surrender part or all of its interest. The family tend not to appreciate that the charity trustees are simply not permitted to surrender an interest unless it is in genuine compromise of litigation or pursuant to the principles of ex gratia payments as authorised by section 26 of the 1993 Charities Act.

We also deal with scenarios where a charity finds itself to be beneficiary of an estate that may have been badly administered or where simply no steps have been taken to administer at all. Our specialist trust and estate disputes team can assist in possibly replacing executors or trustees or in bringing claims for breach of trust. 

We advise on

  • Defending challenges to wills
  • Defending claims brought pursuant to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
  • Bringing applications to remove unsuitable executors or trustees, for an account of an estate or claims involving breach of trust
  • Claims involving the rectification of a will (usually where a mistake has been made in the drafting) or the construction of a will (where there is some dispute concerning the wording or meaning of wording in a will)
  • Actions to recoup losses to an estate occasioned by negligent drafting of a will or maladministration of an estate or trust
  • Defending the position of a charity beneficiary in the context of a claim to the Court of Protection for a statutory will.

We have substantial experience in providing practical and cost-effective advice to charities in dispute. We are committed to mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and look to resolve disputes in a mutually acceptable way, thereby preventing the unnecessary escalation of costs and managing the possibility of adverse publicity.

Where appropriate we would be happy to discuss alternative funding solutions.

Our team and approach

  • We will carry out a full risk assessment for your matter and advise you where the risks lie and how best to deal with them. As the matter progresses the risk assessment will be constantly monitored and updated.
  • We will provide regular costs updates and estimates of future costs which will in turn depend on the direction the matter is taking.
  • We will constantly monitor the costs-benefit position, ie are the likely costs to be incurred worth the benefit to be obtained, bearing in mind the risks in the matter and the inherent risk of litigation
  • We will take a holistic approach and can advise on a range of different matters that might arise such as governance, regulatory and property issues.
  • Our advice will be tailored to your needs. It could range from a one-off consultation to full support throughout a lengthy dispute
  • We are able to offer a tailor-made package of products to assist you in litigation funding, including protecting against having to pay your opponent's costs should you be unsuccessful. Please see our charging information below for more details.

The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists

The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) was established on Monday 8th September, 1997 for lawyers specialising in contentious trust and probate work.

www.actaps.com

Charity Law Association

The Charity Law Association currently has over 900 members including many of the country's largest charities and leading charity lawyers. Members or their representatives are able to attend quarterly meetings at which charity law and related issues are discussed. All members of the team are members of the Charity Law Association.

charitylawassociation.org.uk

National Council of Voluntary Organisations

NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) is a registered charity, which gives voice and support to civil society. Russell-Cooke are an approved consultant of the NCVO. NCVO believes passionately in the voluntary and community sector and are the largest umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England with sister councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

www.ncvo.org.uk

Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is a unique professional body providing members with a local, national and international learning and business network focusing on the responsible stewardship of assets today and across the generations. STEP provides education, training, representation and networking for its members. Members advise clients on the broad business of the management of personal finance. Full members of STEP are the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates.

www.step.org

Charity trustees have to use charity funds reasonably, properly and in furtherance of charitable objectives, but when faced with a dispute are often criticised for using charitable funds in the course of litigation, even though they may have no choice. 

While a Beddoe application will protect a trustee, it is in itself very expensive and does not actually resolve or even progress the dispute.

We are able to assist in that we can in certain circumstances offer creative funding options that will enable charities to lay off the risk of costs exposure, freeing up the charity's funds for other purposes and allowing the trustees to concentrate on the merits of the action itself.

For more information please see the charity litigation funding briefing.

For a discussion on funding options please contact Alison Regan or Gareth Ledsham.

The Charity Finance Directors' Group (CFDG)

The Charity Finance Directors' Group is a membership organisation set up in 1987 and specialises in helping charities to manage their accounting, taxation, audit and other finance related functions.

cfdg.org.uk

Directory of Social Change (DSC)

Directory of Social Change (DSC) is an independent charity with a vision of an independent voluntary sector at the heart of social change. They achieve this by providing essential information and training to the voluntary sector to enable charities to achieve their mission.

dsc.org.uk

Office of the Third Sector

As part of the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Third Sector (OTS) leads work across government to support the environment for a thriving third sector (voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, cooperatives and mutuals), enabling the sector to campaign for change, deliver public services, promote social enterprise and strengthen communities. The OTS was created at the centre of government in May 2006 in recognition of the increasingly important role the third sector plays in both society and the economy.

cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thirdsector

CTN - The trustee network

CTN’s vision is of positive, effective trustees governing voluntary and community sector organisations. It works to achieve this by: increasing trustees’ access to information, guidance and support through networks, a website, signposting and services; and developing understanding and awareness of trusteeship and governance. CTN was founded in 1998 by a group of trustees who found that meeting together enhanced their motivation and effectiveness within their charitable organisations. There are now many networks around the country which provide networking and support opportunities to over 500 trustees a year. We also listen to the concerns of trustees and make sure that these are heard at a national level, through our partnerships, consultations and submissions. We regularly organise events to support trustees and hear their views; these range from a small working group lunch to our Annual Lecture for 300 trustees. Where possible, we work with partners to achieve positive outcomes for trustees.

trusteenet.org.uk

Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI)

Operating from within the National Archives, the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) is at the heart of information policy, setting standards, delivering access and encouraging the re-use of public sector information. OPSI provides a wide range of services to the public, information industry, government and the wider public sector relating to finding, using, sharing and trading information.

opsi.gov.uk

Charity Commission - Supporting Charities

The Charity Commission registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. We offer them advice and provide a wide range of services and guidance to help them run as effectively as possible. We also keep the online Register of Charities, which provides information about each of the thousands of registered charities in England and Wales.

charitycommission.gov.uk

ACEVO

ACEVO is the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. They connect, develop and represent the third sector's leaders. They have over 2000 members. They have been providing support and advice to their members for 20 years.

acevo.org.uk

National Council for Voluntary Organisations

NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) is a registered charity, which gives voice and support to civil society. Russell-Cooke are an approved consultant of the NCVO. NCVO believes passionately in the voluntary and community sector and are the largest umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England with sister councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Click here for further information

Prospectus

Prospectus is a specialist recruitment consultancy and recruitment advertising and design agency working exclusively with the not for profit sector. Their clients include charities, social enterprises, universities, health agencies, arts bodies, membership organisations and government departments. They work collaboratively with not for profit ‘umbrella’ organisations like NCVO and ACEVO.

prospect-us.co.uk

The London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC)

The London Voluntary Service Council (LVSC) is a strategic and independent voice for London's voluntary and community sector. They support London's 60,000 plus voluntary and community organisations to improve the lives of Londoners.

lvsc.org.uk

STEP

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) is a unique professional body providing members with a local, national and international learning and business network focusing on the responsible stewardship of assets today and across the generations. STEP provides education, training, representation and networking for its members. Members advise clients on the broad business of the management of personal finance. Full members of STEP are the most experienced and senior practitioners in the field of trusts and estates.

Click here for further information

ACTAPS

The Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) was established in 1997 for lawyers specialising in contentious trust and probate work.

Click here for further information

ivo

ivo is a charity that promotes and enables volunteering and social action. ivo do this primarily through the use of digital technologies with their main projects being the ivo.org social platform and Do-it.org, the UK's largest volunteering service.

Click here for further information