Commission raises merger register with Attorney General

Merged charities may not receive cash left in wills, say legal experts

The Charity Commission has met the Government's chief legal adviser to discuss the problem of transferring legacies when charities merge.

The meeting of the regulator and the Attorney General came after lawyers complained the commission's mergers register was flawed because charities might not be able to receive income from legacies made out to their pre-merger names.

The mergers register was created by the Charities Act 2006 to allow merging charities to wind up their original organisations and still benefit from legacies left to them.

But some lawyers believe the law is not strong enough to override clauses in wills that name an alternative charity as recipient if the first-named charity has ceased to exist. Many lawyers are advising merging charities to retain shells of their old organisations to ensure legacies are protected.

Philip Kirkpatrick, partner at law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said an amendment to the Charities Act was needed. "Until the issue is sorted out, the mergers register is a dead duck," he said.

The Attorney General's office said the commission had sought its views informally.

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