R Meaker v Picot, Bowick and Hibbert (Née Meaker) (Executors of The Will of B. Meaker)

JurisdictionJersey
CourtRoyal Court
Judge(Ereaut, Deputy Bailiff and Jurats de Faye and Downer):
Judgment Date25 September 1972
Date25 September 1972
ROYAL COURT
(Ereaut, Deputy Bailiff and Jurats de Faye and Downer):

L.V. Bailhache for the plaintiff;

J.C.K.H. Valpy for the defendants.

Charitiescharitable purposeseducational purposesgift to educational establishments (without qualification) not charitableto be charitable must be clear that element of public benefit intended

Charitiescharitable purposesmixed charitable and non-charitable purposesmixed purposes in same gift prevents gift being charitablegift to "charitable institutions . . . including religious institutions and educational establishments" creates non-charitable mixed gift because comma has disjunctive effect

Charitiescharitable purposesreligious purposesdoubtful whether gift for religious purposes or to religious institutions (without qualification) charitableto be charitable must be clear that element of public benefit intendedgift to "charitable institutions . . . including religious institutions" shows intention to benefit only religious institutions which are also charitable

Charitiescharitable trustsintention of donorgeneral charitable intention to be ascertained from document itselfmust expressly or by necessary implication signify clear intention to devote property to charitable purposes

Charitiescharitable trustsuncertaintygift to trustees to be applied exclusively for charitable purposes in their discretion will not fail for uncertaintycertainty of charitable intentions saves vagueness of mode executioncy-prs doctrine applicable in Jersey if clear charitable intention

Trustsdiscretionary truststrustees' exercise of discretiondiscretion to choose objects of trustgift to trustees to dispose of in their discretion uncertain and voidvalid if precisely designates class of persons or objects to be benefited in discretion of trusteescharitable gift treated more generously than non-charitable

Trustspowers and duties of trusteesdiscretion to choose objects of trustgift to trustees to dispose of in their discretion uncertain and voidvalid if precisely designates class of persons or objects to be benefited in discretion of trusteescharitable gift treated more generously than non-charitable

EREAUT, DEPUTY BAILIFF: On 3rd September, 1970, the will of personal estate, dated 31st August, 1964, of the late Benjamin Meaker, who was a bachelor and died domiciled in Jersey, was proved by the Executors and Trustees (hereinafter referred to as "the Trustees") appointed by the will in the Probate Division of the Royal Court.

After making provision for certain specific and pecuniary legacies, the testator, by clause 6 of the will, gave and bequeathed the rest or residue of his personal estate to the Trustees upon trust to sell, call in and convert the same into money, and added certain customary powers and directions.

We quote in full clause 7 of the will

"Out of my ready moneys and the clear moneys to arise from such sale calling in and conversion as aforesaid my Trustees shall pay or provide for my funeral and testamentary expenses and all debts which I may truly owe at the date of my decease and the aforesaid legacies and subject thereto my Trustees shall invest in manner hereinafter authorised the residue of the said moneys and stand possessed of such investments and of the residue of such investments as aforesaid which formed part of my Estate at the time of my death and of all parts of my Estate for the time being unsold (hereinafter called "my Residuary Trust Fund") upon the following trusts that is to say:

(i) To pay one-tenth share or part of my Residuary Trust Fund both as to Capital and Income to my sister Ella Madeleine Hibberd absolutely.

(ii) To pay the remaining nine-tenths of my Residuary Trust Fund both as to Capital and Income for the benefit of such Charitable Institutions and/or Associations, including Religious Institutions, and Educational Establishments in Jersey and the United Kingdom as shall be designated by my Trustees in their sole and absolute discretion, my Trustees to have full powers to distribute such nine-tenths share of my Residuary Trust Fund within a period of 10 years from my death."

The plaintiff, who is the principal heiress of the testator, now brings this action against the Trustees and asks the Court to order the cancellation and annulment of sub-clause (ii) of clause 7 of the will, which relates to the disposal of nine-tenths of the residue of the personal estate,

"on the ground that the said sub-clause is contrary to the laws and customs of the Island, which do not recognise the validity of a trust where the objects are uncertain and where the wording generally is vague and subject to different interpretation."

In reply to a request for further and better particulars of the nature of the uncertainty of the objects of the trust created by that sub-clause, the plaintiff replied (inter alia) as follows

"(1) The clause is prima facie uncertain in that no specific legatees are mentioned and the objects are not necessarily charitable.

"(2) A gift 'for the benefit of' unspecified objects gives rise to uncertainty."

The defendants answered that the sub-clause in question was valid and was not contrary to the Laws and customs of the Island because (inter alia)

"(1) The objects of clause 7(ii) are exclusively charitable.

"(2) A Testator may validly confer on his Executors or Trustees a trust or power of distribution of all or some part of his Estate or the income thereof to or for the benefit of such charitable objects as the Executors or Trustees shall select."

The plaintiff, in her Reply, agreed with the statement in paragraph 2 of the defendants' Answer, provided that the bequest was exclusively charitable, but submitted that the objects of the clause were not exclusively charitable.

Resulting from the pleadings and the submissions of counsel at the hearing, the issue before the Court is whether the objects of clause 7(ii) are exclusively charitable under the Law of Jersey so as to bring the trust within the description of a charitable trust. If they are, then the bequest does not fail for uncertainty; if they are not, then it does so fail.

Although there was a wide area of agreement which enabled the issue before us to be crystallised, in view of the importance of the subject, we think it may be useful at this stage to examine the general principles which are relevant.

Firstly, it was agreed that it is a fundamental principle of the laws of both England and Jersey that a testator must, by the terms of his will, himself dispose of his property, and he cannot leave the disposal of his estate to others. Thus, a gift to trustees upon trust to dispose of the same as they think fit is too uncertain to be carried out by the Court, and is therefore void. However, where the testator designates with sufficient precision a class of persons or objects to be benefited, then he may delegate to his trustees the selection of individual persons or objects within the defined class. In particular, a gift to trustees to be applied by them to such charitable purposes as they may select will not fail for uncertainty, on the well-established principle that "a charitable bequest never fails for uncertainty". That principle is explained in Halsbury, 3rd ed., vol. 4, para. 573, at 276

"The principle is that the court treats charity in the abstract as the substance and the particular disposition as the mode of the gift, and draws a distinction between the charitable intention, which must be clear, and the mode of executing it, which, though vague and indefinite, does not affect the validity of the gift."

The position in English law is well expressed in the following extracts from judgments in leading cases.

In Chichester Diocesan Fund v. Simpson ([1944] A.C. 341), Viscount Simon L.C. says, at page 348

"The fundamental principle is that the testator must by the terms of his will himself dispose of the property with which the will proposes to deal. With one single exception, he cannot by his will direct executors or trustees to do the business for him. That exception arises when the testator is minded to make gifts for charitable purposes, and where he directs his executors or trustees, within such limitations as he chooses to lay down, to make the selection of charities to be benefited. This exception from the general principle that the testator has to decide in his will the specific destination of his property is allowed because of the special favour which the English law shows to charities."

In the same case, Lord Macmillan says, at pages 349-350

". . . the law, in according the right to dispose of property mortis causa by will, is exacting in its requirement that the testator must define with precision the persons or objects he intends to benefit. This is the condition on which he is entitled to exclude the order of succession which the law otherwise provides. The choice of beneficiaries must be the testator's own choice. He cannot leave the disposal of his estate to others. The only latitude permitted is that, if he designates with sufficient precision a class of persons or objects to be benefited, he may delegate to his trustees the selection of individual persons or objects within the defined class. The class must not be described in terms so vague and indeterminate that the trustees are afforded no effective guidance as to the ambit of their power of selection . . .

Unfortunately for the efficacy of their testamentary dispositions, testators or their advisers, as the many reported cases show, frequently fail to observe this rule and by the language which they employ leave their trustees at large in the selection of the persons or objects to be benefited with the result that the bequest is held void for uncertainty.

. . .

One class of objects, however, notwithstanding its generality and comprehensiveness, namely, charitable purposes, has always been accepted as sufficiently definite to satisfy the rule, because of the favour which the law extends to...

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4 cases
  • Rahman v Chase Bank (CI) Ltd
    • Jersey
    • Royal Court
    • 6 June 1991
    ...Locker's Settlement, In re, [1977] 1 W.L.R. 1323; [1978] 1 All E.R. 216; (1977), 121 Sol. Jo. 796, distinguished. (18) Meaker v. Picot, 1972 J.J. 2161. (19) Pirouet v. Pirouet, 1985-86 JLR 151. (20) Saumarez v. Ryley, veuve Saumarez, Royal Ct. (1904), 223 Ex. 318, unreported. (21) Symes v. ......
  • The Greville Bathe Fund
    • Jersey
    • Royal Court
    • 17 October 2013
    ...(5) Internine Trust, In re, 2005 JLR 236, referred to. (6) Landau v. Anburn Trustees Ltd., 2007 JLR 250, considered. (7) Meaker v. Picot, 1972 J.J. 2161, considered. (8) Oppenheim v. Tobacco Secs. Trust Co. Ltd., [1951] A.C. 297; [1951] 1 All E.R. 31, considered. (9) Royal Melbourne Hosp. v......
  • Declan Hearne and Mark Crowther v Advocate Nuno Santos-Costa representing the ascertained beneficiaries and Advocate Simon Franckel representing the unascertained beneficiaries
    • Jersey
    • Royal Court
    • 17 October 2013
    ...Advocate S. A. Franckel appeared in person. Authorities Trusts (Jersey) Law 1984 (as amended). Royal Court Rules 2004. Meaker -v- Picot [1972] JJ 2161 . Statute of Charitable Uses 1601. Income Tax Special Purposes Commissioners -v- Pemsel [1981] AC 531 HL . Oppenheim -v- Tobacco Securities ......
  • THE REPRESENTATION of Attorney General (on behalf of Administrators of GREVILLE BATHE FUND) [Royal Ct]
    • Jersey
    • Royal Court
    • 20 December 1973
    ...meaning of that term. That meaning, in the context of the laws of both Jersey and England, was considered at length in Meaker v. Picot (1972 J.J. 2161), and it is not necessary to repeat what was said there. It suffices to say that we find that "A" Account of the Trust Fund satisfies the fo......
2 firm's commentaries
  • Philanthropy
    • Jersey
    • Mondaq Jersey
    • 18 April 2012
    ...the Comptroller of Taxes may deem it appropriate to apply the statutory anti-avoidance provisions. Footnote Meaker v Picot (1972) JJ 2161 The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific...
  • Jersey Structures For Philanthropy
    • Jersey
    • Mondaq Jersey
    • 13 November 2019
    ...define "charitable purposes". The position is therefore covered by customary law and the leading judgment on the topic, Meaker v Picot (1972) JJ 2161, established the For a charitable trust, there must be a clear intention on the part of the settlor to devote the whole of the property to ch......

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