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The law has not usually favoured charities when it comes to contested bequests, but recent cases offer hope. Anne Robinson explains.

Originally posted February 2019

Bequests or ‘testamentary gifts’ can be a gold mine for charities, providing an important income stream to support their valuable work. According to research by the Queensland University of Technology’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Not-for-profit Studies (ACPNS), the median size of a testamentary gift is twice as high as that of a non-testamentary gift to a charity (Every player wins a prize? Family provision applications and bequests to charity, by Myles McGregor-Lowndes and Frances Hannah, published in October 2008).

However, charities can sometimes lose out on bequests due to the operation of state-level succession law, which gives relatives and other dependants of the deceased an opportunity to make a claim on an estate in ways that could significantly eat into testamentary gifts to charities.

As a result, charities need to carefully consider the implications of this area of law to ensure that testators’ wishes are properly honoured – and the work of charities can be supported – long after the…
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