Re Young's Will Trusts

[1955] 3 All ER 689

(Judgment by: Danckwerts J)

Westminster Bank Ltd v.
Sterling and Others

Court:
Chancery Division

Judge:
Danckwerts J

Subject References:
Charity
Relief of poverty
Requirement of public element
Bequest for the assistance of fellow members of the testator's club who might fall on evil days
Analogy of poor relations cases

Case References:
Re Compton - [1945] 1 All ER 198; [1945] Ch 123; 114 LJCh 99; 172 LT 158; 8 Digest (Repl) 330, 123
Gibson v South American Stores (Gath & Chaves) Ltd - [1949] 2 All ER 985; [1950] Ch 177; 8 Digest (Repl) 320, 51

Hearing date:
Judgment date: 18 November 1955

Judgment by:
Danckwerts J

By his will the testator gave his residuary estate, subject to certain life interests therein, to the trustees of the benevolent fund of the Savage Club, of which he was a member, "upon trust to be used by them as they shall in their absolute discretion think fit for the assistance of any of my fellow members by way of pensions or grants who may fall on evil days". In the event of the club ceasing to exist at any time, there was a gift over of the residue subject to any pensions which had been granted and secured thereon. On the question whether the trusts of residue were valid charitable trusts,

Held - (i) the gift of the testator's residuary estate created valid charitable trusts, since it was for the relief of poverty and within the exception, established in the line of cases known as the "poor relations" cases, from the general rule that a trust was not charitable unless it was directed to the public benefit.

Gibson v South American Stores (Gath & Chaves) Ltd ([1949] 2 All ER 985) applied.

Re Compton ([1945] 1 All ER 198) considered.

(ii) the benefit of the gift extended, on the true construction of the will, to such members of the Savage Club from time to time throughout its existence as might have fallen on evil days.

Notes

The "poor relations" cases are accepted, in the present case, an an exceptional class of cases in that they exemplify trusts which are charitable but which lack the element of public benefit. That they are binding both on the High Court and the Court of Appeal is shown by the judgment of Sir Raymond Evershed MR in Re Scarisbrick's Will Trusts ([1951] 1 All ER at p 829, letter d), where he also cites a dictum of Lord Simonds in Oppenheim v Tobacco Securities Trust Co Ltd ([1951] 1 All ER at p 35, letter e) as indicating that the House of Lords might be disinclined to question now the validity of this line of authority.

As to public benefit being a requisite of a charitable trust, see 4 Halsbury's Laws (3rd Edn) 209, para 488; and for cases on the subject, see 8 Digest (Repl) 313, 314, 3-6.

As to the relief of the poor being a charitable purpose, see 4 Halsbury's Laws (3rd Edn) 213-218, paras 492-495, and, in particular, for "poor relations", see ibid p 216, para 494; and for cases on the subject, see 8 Digest (Repl) 316-319, 13-48.

Adjourned Summons

The plaintiff, Westminster Bank Ltd as the executor and trustee of the will of the testator, Ernest Young deceased, applied to the court by originating summons for the determination of the questions (i) whether the gift of the residuary estate of the testator to the first three defendants as the trustees for the time being of the benevolent fund of the Savage Club was a good and valid gift, or was in whole or part invalid; and (ii) whether the testator died intestate as to his residuary estate or some part thereof.

W F Waite for the plaintiff, the executor and trustee of the will.

W J Mowbray for the first, second and third defendants, the present trustees of the benevolent fund of the Savage Club.

R J S Thompson for the fourth and fifth defendants, the legal personal representatives of the testator's sister (interested in the event of an intestacy).

18 November 1955. The following judgment was delivered.

DANCKWERTS J . The testator, Mr Ernest Young, who was a member of the Savage Club, made his will on 19 August 1946, and died on 10 February 1952. He gave the income of his residuary estate to his brother William John Young, who pre-deceased him, and to his sister Kathleen Hilda Young, who died a few months after the testator, "in equal moieties for their respective lives and the life of the survivor". Then, in cl 7, after stating that he had revoked certain gifts in a previous will, he declared:


"... in substitution thereof I give my residuary estate subject to the life interests therein of my said brother and sister to the trustees of the benevolent fund of the Savage Club, 1, Carlton House Terrace, London, S.W.1. upon trust to be used by them as they shall in their absolute discretion think fit for the assistance of any of my fellow members by way of pensions or grants who may fall on evil days."

He then said, in cl 8:


"In the event of the Savage Club at the time of my death not being in existence or ceasing to exist at any time after my death subject to the life interests of my said brother and sister I give my residuary estate subject to any pensions which may have been granted by the Savage Club and secured thereon to the trustees of the pensions fund of the Incorporated Society of Authors, Playwrights and Composers of 84 Drayton Gardens, London, S.W.10."

It was contended on behalf of those who claim that there is an intestacy that the gift to the trustees of the benevolent fund of the Savage Club fails because it is not a valid charitable trust in view of the fact that the members of the Savage Club are not to be regarded as a part of the public so as to make the trust a public charitable trust.

It is well known that in Re Compton ([1945] 1 All ER 198) the Court of Appeal treated the line of cases known as the "poor relations" cases as an exception from the general rule that charitable trusts, to be valid, must confer benefits on the public or a portion thereof. In the "poor relations" cases, which were decided some time agoa, a gift by a testator in favour of his poor relations was held to be good notwithstanding that general proposition which I have mentioned. The Court of Appeal suggested, however, that it was not a matter which should be extended. Notwithstanding what was said in the Court of Appeal in Re Compton, in Gibson v South American Stores (Gath & Chaves) Ltd ([1949] 2 All ER 985), the Court of Appeal held as perfectly valid a gift for the relief of poverty in respect of the employees of a limited company. I am unable to see what distinction there is in principle between the employees of a limited company and the members of a club. It is a members' club and it seems to me that it is a class bound together by the same principles, as much in the one case as in the other. As the words "for the assistance of any of my fellow members by way of pensions or grants who may fall on evil days" are plainly for the relief of poverty, it seems to me that this is a valid charitable trust within that limited exception to which I have referred.

a See, for example, Isaac v Defriez (1754) (Amb 595), White v White (1802) (7 Ves 423), and A-G v Price (1810) (17 Ves 371), cited in Re Compton

As regards the meaning of the words "of my fellow members", it is true that to give those words their narrowest meaning would confine the benefit of the bequest to the members of the Savage Club who were members of the club either at the date of the testator's will or, possibly, at the date of his death; but I think that the testator was using these words, not in that limited sense, but in the broader sense, namely, that of members who are members of the club "to which I belong". It seems to me that that is clearly indicated in cl 8, where the gift over is not on the final demise of the survivors of the members who were members when the testator died, or anything of that sort, but is on the Savage Club itself ceasing to exist. Consequently, it seems to me that what the testator had in mind was a fluctuating class of persons, the members from time to time of the Savage Club throughout its existence. Accordingly, there is a good and valid charitable trust to be applied by way of pensions or grants to members of the Savage Club from time to time as they fall on evil days.

Order accordingly

Solicitors: Bentley Taylor & Stevens (for the plaintiffs); Rubinstein, Nash & Co (for the first, second and third defendants); Doyle, Devonshire & Co agents for Molineux, McKeag & Cooper, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (for the fourth and fifth defendants).