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Legal Obligation To Charitable Pledge

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If you make a pledge to a charity, what happens if you fail to pay up?

ORBIS International, a blindness charity that runs the flying eye hospital jet around the world to perform free eye services has sued the estate of a Florida millionaire who had pledged $10 million in 2007, but which failed to pay the final $4 million installment.

I know, I was thinking it too: guess they didn’t see that coming.

Also, we were thinking: it’s a charity. It was a gift. Aren’t they supposed to say “thank you” not “where’s the rest”?

Whether you make a pledge for 10 million dollars or 10 dollars to your kid’s athletic fundraising drive and then don’t pay, can the charity sue? The answer is yes.

If you make a gift and ask the charity to do something in return, like build a hospital wing with your name on it – or if they rely on your pledge to do something like build a new wing even if you didn’t ask them to – you’ve created a contract which you’re breaching by not paying – and they can sue you for. It’s unlikely that your kid’s soccer team will sue you for the soccer ball they got thinking you’d be good for it. But don’t you be blind to the fact that no matter the pledge, every dollar counts to the cause you support.

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