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What should you know about the Cy pres doctrine?

If you have stumbled upon the term “Cy Press Doctrine” while looking at estate planning techniques or tools online, then you might be interested to know what it is. The Cy pres doctrine is a legal idea that awards courts the ability to interpret the terms of your gift, charitable trust or will.

Why would this be important? Laws can change, and situations change, too. If some part of your estate plan can’t be carried out as you intended, the court will need to interpret what you meant by your wishes and then carry out the true intention.

The Cy pres doctrine was created in 1986, and it then allowed unused settlement funds to pass onto beneficiaries. When there is unused money in the estate, it can be placed into a Cy pres award, and then a judge may determine how it is allocated.

For example, if you leave behind money in a charitable trust for a research company that studies spinal injuries, you’d expect it to go there upon your death. If that company is no longer in existence when you pass away, then the court may read the intention of your gift and pass it on to the next-best beneficiary. That next-best beneficiary may be another similar organization.

The Cy pres doctrine is an interesting legal concept, and it’s one you may want to get to know to protect your wishes and intentions. Your attorney will help you build your estate plan so that there is no question about what you intend or how you’d like your assets to be distributed.