By Cathy Hoang, University of Technology Sydney

This case note was originally published in the Animal Law Case Book, ed Sophie Riley (1st ed, 2015) and has been republished with minor edits by Voiceless with permission from the editor.   

Citation: Re Weaver; Trumble v Animal Welfare League of Victoria [1963] VR 257

Court – Supreme Court of Victoria
Judge – Hudson J
Date of Judgment – 1 June 1962

FACTS OF THE CASE

Weaver, the testator, created a will dated 30 June 1957. Trumble was named as executor and trustee. The testator instructed Trumble to distribute real and personal property to certain relatives, friends and various institutions. The testator bequeathed £3000 on trust to the State School of Tewantin Queenslands Library, with the net yearly income to be spent purchasing books and materials. These aspects of the will were not contested.

The testator further bequeathed £5000 on trust to the Animal Welfare League, which was to receive interest from the amount on a yearly basis. He also left £2000 on trust to pay and apply the net income to the Walter Theo Weaver Bursary Trust at the State School Tewantin Queensland. The residue of the estate was left on trust to the Bursary Fund. The gifts of £2000 and the balance of the estate were contested as it was claimed that they breached the rule against perpetuities. The gift to the Animal Welfare League was contested on the basis that it was a perpetual gift of income for purposes which were not charitable.

THE ISSUES

  • Whether the £2000 and balance of the residue gifted to the Walter Theo Weaver Bursary were valid.
  • Whether the bequest of £5000 to the Animal Welfare League was valid.

THE DECISION

Gifts to the Walter Theo Weaver Bursary

It was argued that these gifts offended the rule against perpetuities, which would render them invalid unless they were for a charitable purpose. The Court held that even though the money could be applied to purposes other than education by the successful recipient, it would nonetheless “stimulate students at the school to a greater interest in their studies and result in a higher standard of education throughout the school”. It was therefore held to be a gift for the advancement of education and was accordingly valid on the basis of its charitable character.

Bequest to the Animal Welfare League

It was claimed that the gift to the Animal Welfare League was not for charitable purposes and therefore breached the rule against perpetuities.

The Animal Welfare League first argued that, upon its proper construction, the gift was a capital sum of £5000. The Court rejected this, holding that “the scope and extent of the gift which the testator intended to confer was a perpetual gift of the income of the sum he named.”

Second, the Animal Welfare League argued that its objects were charitable as the organisation existed for a purpose beneficial to the community, and that the gift could therefore survive perpetuity. The Court accepted the principle enunciated in Re GroveGrady; Plowden v Lawrence [1929] 1 Ch 557 and Re Wedgewood [1915] 1 Ch 113. The former case established that the relevant questions to be answered were: “(1) Is the trust for a purpose beneficial to the community? (2) If it satisfies that first test is it charitable?” In respect of the first question, where a trust was created in favour of animals, it would be critical that the charitable trust be of benefit to the public or a significant section of the public. The Court held that the trust incorporated a requisite public benefit: “Nor do I think that the humane feelings of mankind will not be stirred by steps taken to promote and improve the welfare of animals unless they are sick animals in need of medical attention or some other form of succour.” Upon consideration of the League’s objects, the Court came to the conclusion that it was charitable.

Finally, the Animal Welfare League submitted that if its objects were both charitable and non-charitable, the gift would be saved by s 131 Property Law Act 1958 (Vic). The Court had already found that the objects of the League were charitable, and therefore did not need to consider this argument.

Accordingly, the Court found that the provisions in the will created a valid charitable trust in favour of the Animal Welfare League.

COMMENTARY

This case demonstrates the way in which a trust created for the protection of animals must satisfy the requirements of being for a charitable purpose and of public benefit. Significantly, the Court identified as important, the fact that the Animal Welfare League “may devote its energies and resources to the welfare of animals of all kinds is clearly on the authorities not in itself sufficient to deprive the league of its charitable character”. However, the Court also noted that the organisation devotes its energy to the welfare of all animals and this “might lead the Court to the conclusion that the benefit of a gift to the public might be outweighed by some proved detriment”.

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