Testing Your Intent - 350 Years Later

In a great story from the Wall Street Journal we are reminded again of the importance of well thought out and clear planning.  See: Testing Donor’s Intent, 350 Years Later.  This is especially true if the Will or Trust will be administered over a significant number of years and for the benefit of a charity.In this case, 350 years ago and eight days before his death, William Payne bequeathed 35 acres to “the free scoole of Ipswitch” to never be sold and to “for euer” be used to benefit the Ipswich (MA) public schools.  After years of litigation related to its management, the trustee group charged with handling the property has now determined to sell it and place the proceeds in the Trust for the benefit of the schools.  The litigation has now turned to whether such actions are consistent with Mr. Payne’s intent.The moral: be absolutely clear in your intentions and offer alternatives if your intent can no longer be honored.  Charities will change or disappear, so there should always be a contingency plan in place.  Also make sure you give some flexibility to those charged with administration so they can deal with changing circumstances over time.