New Hampshire Supreme Court Affirms Modification of Usage for Charitable Funds

In re Robert T. Keeler Maintenance Fund, 306 A.3d 795 (N.H. 2023)

The decedent bequeathed funds in his will to Dartmouth College for the maintenance of a golf course.  The college sought to modify that restriction since the golf course had closed.  The college proposed to use the funds to support other golf-related programs and facilities at the college.

The decedent’s estate and a foundation he created sought to intervene in the action, to assert that, by closing the golf course, the college had frustrated the purpose of the gift, such that all remaining funds should be directed to the foundation.  Those entities contended that the UPMIFA statute in New Hampshire was silent on standing and that they had a “special interest” in the case.

The trial court rejected that argument, and the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed.  One of the bases of the decision was that courts in an increasing number of states have stopped requiring petitioners to demonstrate the existence of a general charitable intent and instead allow a presumption that the gift evidences a general charitable intent sufficient to apply the cy pres doctrine.  The UPMIFA statute “does not condition the grant of an application to modify the restrictions on a charitable gift upon proof that the donor had a general charitable intent, but rather presumes the donor had such an intent.”  Id. at 802.