Papers of defunct charity

A colleague acted for a charity for several years until it ceased to operate so our retainer has come to an end. A couple of the trustees have now requested a copy of the charity’s file., potentially for use in a court action. My colleague is uncertain as to whether individual trustees are entitled to request the papers and there has been debate in the office as to who actually owns the files. The forum’s comments/words of wisdom would be appreciated.

Mrs J E Bennell

My comments below are based upon the charity ceasing in all aspects, including a total exhaustion of its assets. If its assets have been transferred to another charity by way of a scheme, I believe that would also likely transfer the legal right to the charity’s papers, so that the trustees of the now defunct charity have no right in them.

If it were a private trust, would not the trustees at the time of winding up/dissolution, in their capacity of trustees, “own” the papers?

If the reason for obtaining the papers is in connection with the, now defunct, charity then, subject to my opening comment, I would suggest they retain the right to request them. However, this might also depend on whether the court action is to be defended or pursued by them as trustees. If the latter, then I believe this needs to be sanctioned by the Attorney General or the Charity Commission.

If the court action is not one in which the trustee are involved as trustees, then I suggest the file falls under the control of the Attorney General, whose consent to its release should be obtained (by the trustees).

Paul Saunders