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Judgment in Phillips v RSPB & Others [2012] WTLR 891

Christopher Buckley represented the Attorney-General in this case concerning the application of intended gifts to charity.

It was an application by executors for directions as to to whom they should pay a share of the deceased’s residuary estate. Save for a gift of her parrot, the deceased had left her entire estate to four organisations dealing with animal welfare/conservation, three of which were registered charities. One of the registered charities, an owl sanctuary in the New Forest, had ceased to exist by the time the Executors came to distribute the Estate.

The main question for the court was whether the gift could be applied via a scheme, and therefore saved for charity, to another bird charity to which the majority of the owls had been transferred. This involved questions as to whether the gift was a purpose trust, whether there had been an initial or supervening failure of the gift and whether one could ascertain a paramount charitable intent.

The court decided that the owl sanctuary still existed at the date of death with the result that, even though it had been removed from the Register of Charities, there was a supervening failure and the gift could be applied cy-près and paid to the other bird charity.

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