Gift to Church of England church

We are currently administering an estate where the will contains a pecuniary legacy to an Anglican church as follows:

“£2,000 to the Vicar and Churchwardens of the Parish Church of XXXX”.

Our normal wording for gifts of this nature would be to the PCC of the church “to be used as to both capital and income for such religious purposes in the Parish as the PCC shall in its absolute discretion think fit.”

Our understanding is that, as regards the construction of beneficiaries, the will speaks from the execution of the will unless there is a contrary intention. Our concern is that the will could be construed as giving the legacy to the people who were the vicar and churchwardens of the named church at the date of the execution of the will, without any obligation for them to use this for the church itself.

Under the further terms of the will, there are other charitable legacies and legacies to other churches and the residuary estate passes to various charities, It would therefore appear to be demonstrable that that the intention of the legacy as above was for the church itself, as at the date of the testator’s death, to benefit from this pecuniary legacy.

We are therefore tentatively of the view that we could infer a contrary intention so that the gift can be construed as charitable and paid to the current vicar and churchwarden of the church.

However, I should be very grateful for views on this - thank you.

Duncan Mitchell-Innes
TWM Solicitors LLP

The Church of England has published guidance to executors:

Whilst addressed to lay executors, the paragraphs at the end of page 1/top of page 2 address the point in question.

Paul Saunders

Hi Duncan

Was the wording of the gifts to the other churches also to the Vicar etc, or was it to the Church/PCC? If the latter then I would argue that the gift to the Vicar and the Churchwardens that you
mention was indeed for them personally. It is quite plausible the testator had been helped/made to feel welcome by them and wanted to recognise that.

I look forward to hearing what others think.

Sara Spencer
Sara Spencer Ltd

This is from the guidance provided to PCCs when receiving a V&C legacy.

Proper Receiving Body

The Parochial Church Council is the preferred recipient of any legacy gift. Previously common variants include the vicar and churchwardens (V&C). This practice dates back to the days before PCCs existed; now PCCs are the legal trustees of parish funds. When such V&C legacies arrive, the monies do not belong to the PCC.
However the vicar and churchwardens may feel it is more appropriate for the PCC to be the recipient. This is possible through a scheme with the Charity Commission whereby the V&C pass on to the PCC both the legacy and the responsibility to ensure that the testator’s wishes are carried out. Legal advice should be sought, initially through your Diocesan Secretary or Registrar.

Karl Dembicki
Buckles LLP

Having read Sara Spencer’s post, I recall that gifts to churches is a subject discussed in Williams on Wills.

If I recall correctly, a gift to the Vicar and Church Wardens is said to be a gift for the upkeep of the church building.

If the gift is to the PCC, as the PCC has both charitable and non-charitable functions, it is to be applied exclusively for the charitable purposes.

Although the case of Re Gare 1952 springs to mind in connection with this, I have been unable to trace the judgment or any report of that case.

Paul Saunders

There was a case about this, Farley and Others v Westminster Bank and Others. If I remember correctly, the gift to the vicar was charitable but the gift to the churchwardens was not.

Akilah McEwen
Amphlett Lissimore

Thank you for these responses, which are very much appreciated and which I think resolve matters.

Duncan Mitchell-Innes
TWM Solicitors LLP