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Modifications to charitable trusts under the cy pres doctrine

Some Coloradoans want to leave money to benefit the public through charity. This can be done by establishing charitable trusts. These types of vehicles are established in order to help with poverty, to advance education, to benefit health, or for other charitable purposes.

In some cases, the charitable purposes that are identified in trusts are unable to be fulfilled. For example, if a grantor establishes a trust to benefit a specific community organization, the purpose of the trust may not be able to be realized if the organization closes. In instances like this, the cy pres doctrine will apply.

Under the cy pres doctrine, trusts can be modified so that they can continue into perpetuity. This doctrine allows courts to modify the purpose of a trust if it does not contain a provision for how it will be used if its purpose can no longer be fulfilled. The courts can modify the trusts to benefit other similar organizations that offer similar benefits to the public. For example, if a trust's purpose is to benefit a specific health nonprofit that closes, the court could modify it to benefit another such organization instead.

People who are wanting to establish charitable trusts that may offer benefits for generations to come might want to get help from legal counsel. Attorneys who are experienced in setting up charitable trusts might help their clients to write the provisions in such a way that the stated charitable purpose will be able to continue offering benefits. In order to try to prevent a future need for modification, the attorneys might include a provision that states how the purpose may be changed in the event that its stated one can no longer be fulfilled.

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