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Can a charity really sue you or your estate over a pledge?

It's not uncommon for individuals who are moved by a charitable organization's efforts to want to pledge their support to aid them in funding their future outreach. This is why many people set up charitable trusts or sign contracts promising to make a future contribution to a charity. Many of these nonprofit organizations will request that a donor places any oral pledges in writing. When charities don't get what's promised to them, they often file a lawsuit.

Many individuals who pledge money or assets over to a charity assume that they've simply made a promise to them. These donors don't tend to think that there's any consequence if they decide not to contribute. Such charitable pledges are governed by state contract laws though. This means that a charity can sue you or your estate to recover any amounts that they were promised.

Judges historically have tended to step in on cases in which a more formal written contract has existed. It's in these instances that the court has set out to determine if the three key elements that all contracts should have are in place. Judges may rule that the agreement is unenforceable or invalid if these elements aren't present.

To be held as valid and enforceable, contracts must show both an offer and acceptance. A donor promising to commit funds constitutes an offer. It's key that the contract spells out what conditions must be met for the amount to be payable though. An acceptance occurs once the charity sends an acknowledgment letter or the pledge card.

A contract must spell out what consideration is being offered. Charities that receive large charitable donations may agree to name a building after the donor. A charitable organization may simply agree to publicly announce the donor's name. Any consideration needs to be spelled out in the contract.

Charitable organizations depend on the funds that they receive to continue to offer the services that they do. This is why they tend to fight so aggressively to ensure that a pledge is upheld when someone commits certain assets or funding to them. If you or your family find yourself embroiled in a legal battle with a Florida charity over a pledge, then an attorney here in Melbourne can help you negotiate a settlement in your case.

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