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The cy pres doctrine explained

The cy pres doctrine was formed with the intention to prevent a charitable trust from failing. It has often been applied to different contexts including class action settlements. The concept of the doctrine is to change the terms of a charitable trust so they are restored to their original intentions of the testator, and in changing the terms in this way, the charitable trust would be prevented from failing.

This blog will provide a very brief overview of how the cy pres doctrine is typically applied and under what circumstances a trust can be given legal help in this way.

What is an example of when the cy pres doctrine might be applied?

Let's take an example of a person who left their estate to a hospital for the reason that they wanted to help sick children. When the person died, the hospital that he left his estate to had already closed down. The decedent's heirs made a claim that since there was a lapse in the legacy, the estate should be passed to them by default.

The court has a valid argument using the cy pres doctrine because the court can now argue that the decedent's original intention was to help sick children. Therefore, it does not matter which hospital the estate goes to, as long as the estate will be given to that cause.

The cy pres doctrine is subject to change and varies greatly from state to state. However, it is a legal principle that can be of vital importance in trust conflicts.


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  • Paul Faith David Ledyard Distinguished AV | Peer Review Rated | LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell | For Ethical Standards & Legal Ability

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