Interesting recent decision out of the New York Surrogate's Court regarding charitable trusts:

In his Will, Alan Dawe created a Trust to continue and expand the genealogical research, archives, and website he had created for the Dawe family. Trust income could be used for administrative costs, but principal was not to be invaded. At the Trust's termination (21 years after the death of two relatives), assets were to pass to the Godfrey Library, where Dawe carried out much of his genealogical research.

Barry Dawe, Alan's brother, asked the court to declare the Trust void, on the grounds that it failed to name a beneficiary and had no charitable purpose. If declared void, the residue would pass by intestacy. Godfrey Library conceded that the Trust was invalid, but proposed that Trust provisions in the Will be excised and disregarded, resulting in the acceleration of the remainder interest to the library.

The Court found there was no substantial benefit to the public from Dawe's research, so the Trust could not be considered charitable in nature. The Court agreed that the Trust was invalid, but noted that, when asked to choose between two interpretations of a Will--one of which will result in intestacy--it is generally presumed that someone who goes to the trouble of making a Will did not intend any part of the estate to pass by intestacy. Disregarding the invalid Trust provision would not disturb Dawe's overall testamentary plan, said the Court, but allowing the residue to pass by intestacy to the family was contrary to the Will. In re Estate of Dawe, 2018 NY Slip Op. 28233.

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