George Floyd died tragically during an arrest by Minneapolis Police officers on May 25, 2020. Mr. Floyd’s highly publicized death ignited demonstrations and protests across the United States and Canada against police brutality and in support of anti-racism. Many individuals are also showing their support to this cause with donations to community groups, non-profit organizations, and other fundraising campaigns with a related mission or purpose.
One of the more successful fundraising campaigns has been the George Floyd Memorial Fund established by Mr. Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, on GoFundMe, an online crowdfunding platform. This campaign has raised just over $14 million to date, far surpassing its original target of $1.5 million. The overwhelming success of this GoFundMe campaign invites the question – what happens if more funds are donated to a fundraising campaign than originally requested?
Crowdfunding campaigns are often created in order to raise money for a specific purpose or project. If more money is raised than is needed to fulfill the campaign’s intended purpose, then there will be surplus funds. A common example is a GoFundMe campaign created to defray funeral expenses and the campaign ends up raising funds over and above the actual costs incurred for the funeral. What is the campaign promoter entitled, or perhaps required, to do with the leftover funds?
In general, if money is donated for a specific purpose and not all of the funds raised can be applied to that specific purpose, the surplus funds may be returned to the donors via a resulting trust. Returning donated monies can be burdensome where there have been a significant number of donors and/or anonymous donors who cannot be easily identified. To help avoid this situation, a campaign promoter can include alternative purposes for which funds can be used. These additional purposes must be set out at the time the funds are solicited.
In the case of the George Floyd Memorial Fund, the GoFundMe page states:
“This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.”
The above description includes multiple purposes for the collected funds. Some of these purposes likely have been or will be fulfilled, such as the payment of funeral expenses. However, other purposes are seemingly unbounded, such as supporting the care and education of Mr. Floyd’s children. Thus, although the George Floyd Memorial Fund garnered millions of dollars in excess of its original goal, it is likely that all of these funds can properly be applied to the campaign’s defined purposes. If this is the case, then no portion of the collected funds will be considered to be surplus and all of the money should remain available for the benefit of the Floyd family.
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I try to seize every opportunity I can to learn about art. In preparing today’s blog, I was intrigued to read about the UK’s Cultural Gifts Scheme and its relationship to estates.
The Cultural Gifts Scheme & Acceptance in Lieu allows UK taxpayers to donate important works of art and other heritage objects in return for a tax reduction, which includes inheritance tax. The donated work is then held for the benefit of the public or the nation at an eligible museum or gallery. According to this article from the Guardian, the Scheme was first introduced in 1910 as a way of allowing individuals to offset inheritance tax bills, and later, in 2013, to allow individuals to be able to make donations during their lifetime in order to offset future tax liabilities.
Any art admirer should have a look at the 2018-2019 Annual Report which provides a list of items that were received, along with some pretty pictures of the items :). It is a feast for the eyes and the senses. Some of the highlights include:
- a Portrait of the Emperor Charles V by Peter Rubens, which has gone to the Royal Armouries in Leeds
- a platinum and diamond necklace with black velvet ribbons, convertible to a brooch, made by Cartier in Paris c. 1908-1910, which has been allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum
- 361 botanical drawings by the illustrator Florence Helen Woolward
- Bernardo Bellotto’s painting of Venice on Ascension Day, which settled £7 million of tax
- Damien Hirst’s Wretched War sculpture, given by the artist’s former business manager Frank Dunphy settling £90,000 in tax
In Canada, although art can be subject to capital gains, and possibly other taxes, it is possible for a donor to limit, or avoid the tax altogether, including by way of claiming a charitable tax credit. Individuals thinking about estate planning and/or donating art should seek the advice of a professional advisor to maximize the amount of savings.
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According to statistics posted on the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network website, there were a total of 1,546 persons waiting for an organ transplant as of June 20, 2016. According to beadonor.ca, 29% of Ontarians are registered organ donors, which is 3.5 million people out of an eligible population of 12.0 million.
I was touched when I read the recent commentary that was published by the Star, which was written by Beth and Emile Therien. Beth and Emile Therien are the parents of Sarah Beth Therien, who died 10 years ago and who revolutionized organ donation in Ontario.
When Sarah Beth died, organ donation was only available when a person had been declared brain dead. According to Sarah Beth’s parents, such deaths only occur in 1 to 2% of hospital deaths and Sarah Beth did not fit into this category of donors.
However, Beth and Emile Therien knew that their daughter was not coming back and they knew that she believed strongly in organ donation. With the help of the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network and the Ottawa Hospital, Sarah Beth became Canada’s first organ donor whose organs were donated after the withdrawal of life support, which is otherwise known as donation after cardiocirculatory death (“DCD“).
Since Sarah Beth’s death in 2006, 1,067 transplants have been performed in Ontario with organs that were donated after cardiocirculatory death. According to Beth and Emile Therien, one third of deceased donors in Ontario, today, are DCD donors.
Here on our Hull & Hull website, we have published a Toolkit for Legal Professionals which includes precedent letters to assist legal professionals in advising their clients about organ donation. This Toolkit was developed by Ian M. Hull, along with Sam Marr of Landy Marr Kats LLP, in consultation with the Ontario Trillium Gift of Life Network.
I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who is interested in registration, or in learning more about this topic in general, to visit https://www.beadonor.ca/ and https://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/
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Listen to becoming an executor after death.
This week on Hull on Estates, Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag, discuss becoming an executor after death and three issues that must be addressed immediately.