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Families challenging bequests

2 min read

The research, conducted by the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (CPNS), revealed that the Australian legal system favours the family in such disputes, overriding the wishes of the deceased individual.

CPNS Director Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes said that there appeared to be a clear legal bias towards family members, who perhaps expected to receive more from the will.

“In the vast majority of cases the charity ends up with a fraction of the amount intended…even in cases where the offspring have been estranged for years,” he said.

Salvation Army Territorial Appeals Director Major Gary Masters said the organisation had experienced an increase in the number of people making claims against bequests, which are an important source of donations for the Salvation Army. The organisation has consistently raised nearly as much in wills and bequests as it has from the Red Shield Appeal – approximately $36 million.

Further research to come out of CPNS on the topic of charitable bequestors shows that many do not meet the stereotype of the lone, wealthy individual. Senior research fellow at CPNS Dr Kym Madden said the study found a substantial proportion of those naming a charity in their will were baby boomers, commonly on a modest income and who had a family.

“There is a myth that a bequest to a charity has to involve a large amount of money and, if you have a family, you don’t do it. This study’s findings indicate that this is not true anymore, if this once was,” Dr Madden said.

Co-researcher Dr Wendy Scaife said the study showed that the decision to leave a bequest was driven by values and a strong belief in the causes being supported.

“Those who name a charity in their will are particularly drawn to charities that have excellent reputations, good management and a focused mission. They want to know that their donations will achieve results.

“Charities that show that a bequest is an affordable option, with real benefits, are speaking the language of today’s supporter,” Dr Scaife said.

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