Building trusts for cy pres evaluation

Planning for the management of a sizable estate in Pennsylvania might well include establishing a charitable trust. This is a noble gesture as well as a potential tax relief. However, one must typically understand the way the court is involved in the maintenance and re-evaluation of trusts in order to ensure the longevity of the charitable pursuit.

There are various tools the state might use to dissolve or restructure charitable trusts. The Cornell Law School defines one such tool, the cy pres doctrine, as a safety net for trusts that become impractical. Essentially, the court would assess the trust's designated purpose and redirect its resources towards a purpose as close as possible to the original. 

The Internal Revenue Service goes into some additional detail, explaining when courts typically choose not to apply cy pres modifications. If it seems to the court that a specific purpose— a purpose which became impossible or impractical some time after the drafting of the trust— was the sole reason the donor established the trust, then it is unlikely that the court would apply cy pres. In short, the cy pres doctrine is an inappropriate tool to manage the trust if there is no sufficiently similar charitable application available.

The IRS resource also contains several examples to illustrate the way courts might apply the cy pres doctrine in the real world. Anyone interested in establishing a charitable trust would likely want to write the documents in such a way that channels any potential cy pres applications towards the original intention, be that to benefit one cause specifically or contribute generally to the greater good.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information


John A. Cochran, Esquire
140 S. Main St.
Suite 301
Greensburg, PA 15601

Phone: 724-216-0704
Greensburg Law Office Map

Review Us