Benevolent funds

The following Property practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Benevolent funds
  • Relief of poverty
  • Public benefit
  • Prevention of poverty

Benevolent funds

A benevolent fund is an institution, including a body of trustees, which holds funds on trust for the purpose of relieving poverty amongst a defined group of individuals. The nexus between that group of individuals could be a common employer (as in Gibson), or a common trade or profession, or membership of a particular members’ club (as in Re Young), unincorporated association or friendly society (as in Re Buck), or even a common family member - so called ‘poor relations’ cases (as in Re Compton).

There are approximately 3,000 benevolent funds currently operating in the UK, of which the vast majority are registered charities. However, a benevolent fund will only now be charitable, with all the attendant advantages of charitable status (not least in regard to taxation), if it satisfies the requirements of Charities Act 2011 (CA 2011).

Relief of poverty

Whether or not a particular trust or gift qualifies as a charitable benevolent fund for the relief of poverty does not turn on the presence or absence of the word ‘poverty’, because the necessary charitable intent can be found from all the circumstances (see Cawdron v Merchants Taylors' School [2009] EWHC 1722 (Ch)).

Nor does ‘poverty’ require the potential beneficiaries to be destitute. According to Lord Evershed MR in Re Coulthurst ‘poverty … may not unfairly be paraphrased … as meaning persons who have to

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