Rules on mergers 'need tightening'

Charity Commission's register leaves legacies loophole, says lawyer

Charities could become involved in lengthy legal battles with each other if the law that established the Charity Commission's register of mergers is not tightened up, according to a charity law expert.

Claris D'cruz, a charity lawyer at Wilsons solicitors, told a legacy conference in London last week that the register of mergers, introduced in 2007, was supposed to make sure that, among other things, legacies left to charities that had merged would go to the new organisation.

But D'cruz said the wording of the law was not strong enough to override clauses in wills that said a named charity should receive a legacy only if it still existed on the person's death.

She told Third Sector that conflicts could arise where another charity was named as an alternative recipient. "If it was a large gift such as a house, neither set of trustees could walk away because both have a duty to maximise their charity's assets," said D'cruz.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said there were no plans to review charity law before 2011. He said the sector should work to educate will drafters to make sure their clients' intentions were reflected in the wording of their wills.

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