I thought I would start off this week’s blogs by discussing planned giving. Planned giving provides a mechanism for people to contribute to programs that they support. In this way, people are able to target their philanthropic efforts towards programs that they believe will improve communities. The book, The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan, captures this idea perfectly and I recommend it as a must read. The authors, Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon, recognize that giving is meaningful and personal. So, for example, individuals who love animals may decide to donate part of their estates to animal welfare organizations.
So how do you want to improve your community? What about willing your body to a “body farm”? This is 1 of the 10 suggestions made in a CNN Report written by Elizabeth Cohen entitled “Ten uses for your body after you die”.
The body farm, as it is known, is located in Knoxville, Tennessee and has 650 skeletons scattered over 2.5 acres so that anthropology students are able to study bodies in varying stages of decay for the purposes of learning about body identification and time of death analysis.
If your charitable inclination is to donate your body to the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center (aka the body farm) click here.
If you’re undecided, check out the Art of Giving. It’s a good place to start if you are considering providing for charitable donations in your will.
Thanks for reading!
Kathryn Pilkington – Click here for more information on Kathryn Pilkington.
Cy pres is the equitable doctrine under which a court interprets a document containing a gift to charity by substituting another charity to reflect as closely as possible the donor’s intention. Courts use cy pres when a donor’s original charitable purpose cannot be exactly fulfilled. When literal compliance is impossible, the general intention of the donor should still be carried out as nearly as possible (cy pres) so that the charitable bequest does not fail.
In our area of expertise, estate and trust litigation, cy pres applications are quite common to determine the proper beneficiary(s) of a subject testamentary bequest. Megan Connolly has blogged on the application of the cy pres doctrine to charitable bequests in Wills. Cy pres has been applied in other areas of the law.
In the context of class action proceedings, settlements increasingly include cy pres orders (as they are often called) where part of the settlement funds are paid to charitable and non-profit organizations, to be applied to activities that may reasonably be expected to benefit class members. In a recent decision approving the settlement of a class action against a financial institution involving alleged unauthorized charges for foreign currency transactions, Justice Cullity reviewed cy pres orders in class action settlements and ultimately made an order for the Law Foundation of Ontario to receive $14.2 million to create a trust fund “for the purpose of advancing public access to justice in Canada”. Justice Cullity noted that access to justice had been used as a ground for certifying the proceeding. Class members and other members of the public would benefit from enhanced access to justice in the future.
Thanks for reading,
Bianca La Neve
Bianca La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.
In 1949, Georgia O’Keeffe donated the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art to Fisk University ("Fisk") in Nashville, Tennessee. O’Keeffe, as executor of her late husband’s estate, divided his collection of paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs and donated the nearly 1,000 pieces to six institutions, including Fisk. O’Keeffe had donated the collection to Fisk with the express stipulation that the paintings not be sold or exchanged, as evidenced by a letter written that year to then Fisk-President Charles S. Johnson.
In 2005, cash-strapped Fisk attempted to sell the paintings from the collection in order to rectify its ‘troubled financial condition’. In court filings, Fisk officials indicated that the school would run out of operating funds by the end of 2007 without selling 50 percent of the collection.
In March 2008, the Court enjoined Fisk from selling the painting and ordered the school to put the collection on display by October 6th or forfeit the collection to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Since then, Fisk, arguing that selling the art for a reported $30 million does not violate O’Keeffe’s original intent, has filed an appeal to sell half the collection to a museum in Arkansas. This week, Fisk asked the appeals court to send the case back to trial court saying the judge should not have blocked the sale without a more comprehensive hearing. Those of you familiar with my recent Machu Picchu blog, and the Beaverbrook blog trilogy of March 2007, October 2007 and August 2008 will find some parallels here: In court documents, the parties disagree as to whether the collection is a charitable gift as opposed to an asset that Fisk can dispose of at will.
Interestingly, the Fisk website indicates that "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection is unavailable for viewing due to renovations currently underway at the Carl Van Vechten Gallery".
David M. Smith