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What is the cy-pres doctrine?

If you are the executor of an estate, you may be responsible for ensuring the terms of the trusts and wills are carried out according to the deceased’s wishes. When a trust is dissolved, the money and/or property is transferred to the beneficiary designated in the trust. There are some situations, however, where the details of the trust may be impossible to carry out, as the terms have become impractical, illegal or otherwise impossible to pursue. In this case, the cy-pres doctrine may come into effect. Rather than voiding or failing the entire trust, the cy-pres doctrine enables the executor or the court to adjust the terms of the trust so that they can be carried out.

The term ‘cy-pres’ means ‘as near as possible’, meaning the terms of the trust will be changed to mirror the original terms, as closely as possible. The property or money included in the trust will be designate to a charitable purpose that is closely related to the original terms of the trust. There may be a case where the court decides to fail the entire trust rather than apply it toward a charitable organization. If the deceased had a particular purpose or intent in accomplishing a specific goal with the money toward a certain charity, the court may fail the trust if that particular goal could not be accomplished.

As the executor of the estate, you may work with the court to determine what is in the best interest of the trust and the estate.

This information should be used for educational purposes and should not be taken for legal advice.

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