Why charities need lawyers

 

Charity solicitors are legal professionals who specialise in the law that relates to charities. Charitable organisations depend on charity solicitors to protect the interests and legal status of the organisation.

What is a charity?

A charity is a body that is similar in many ways to a company, and in fact is governed by certain sections of the Companies Act 2006. As such a charity requires solicitors to incorporate the organisation under the specific legal guidelines which are relevant to it.

Charities can also bring claims in court and can be sued themselves. A recent case involving the RSPCA illustrates this point. In this case:

  • A will which gave the charity a farm was executed
  • The daughter of the deceased claimed the farm was promised to her, and that the deceased’s husband forced her to change the will prior to her death
  • The court found in favour of the daughter and the charity is planning to appeal

Charity law is never clear-cut. Negative media coverage for a charity may cost millions of pounds in donations which could go towards another good cause.

If you are working for a charity and you have encountered a dispute, charity solicitors are able to help. Even if the dispute is has not escalated to the point where a claim was brought in court, speaking to a solicitor can help. In some cases both parties to a dispute can benefit from legal expertise, as this can clear the position the law takes on the matter in dispute.

Why choose charity status?

The UK provides different sets of regulatory governance to different industries. The legal status of an organisation dictates the type of legal rules it must operate under. For reasons of public policy the rules for charities are much less demanding than other ‘for profit’ organisations.

The main benefit charities gain from their status is related to tax. Because the government sees charities as performing tasks which benefit society, the need to tax them is reduced. Many charities also rely on tax benefits their sponsors receive when making a donation. Without this tax incentive many corporations will be unable to justify charitable donations to their shareholders.

Charity lawyers are charged, first and foremost, with ensuring that a charity organisation does not lose its charitable status. There are many different requirements to qualify as a charitable organisation and charity lawyers help their clients comply with the regulations. Charity lawyers are also charged with many other legal issues that come up in relation with charities, such as:

  • Litigation disputes
  • Employment conflicts
  • Contractual obligations

If you are working in a charitable organisation and you are worried about compliance or legal disputes, you may benefit from speaking to a lawyer.

The industry knowledge and legal background of a solicitor can go a long way in helping to resolve your situation. It is important for you make sure that the solicitor consulting you is a specialist in the area of law that your case relates to.

More questions? See our FAQ page on charities.

Do you need a charity lawyer to help you with the start-up of a new charity? Are you experiencing a dispute relating to your charity status? Contact Law can put you in touch with specialist charity lawyers who can assist you in resolving any disputes as quickly as possible. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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