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20/04/2021

Charities should review delegated authority documents to protect trustees

KATHERINE ELLIS colour

It is crucial for all charities to have an official delegated authority in place so that their trustees are legally protected, according to Thursfields Solicitors.

The leading Midlands law firm was commenting in a new series of bulletins it is issuing to advise the third sector on legacy income and protecting charity trustees.

Katherine Ellis, a senior associate solicitor in the Charities and Communities Sector team at Thursfields, highlighted why it was so important for all charities have an official delegated authority in place.

Katherine said: “A delegated authority confirms which charity employees may carry out which specific tasks or make certain decisions on behalf of the charity’s trustees.

“Without this, even simple tasks such as approving estate accounts, acknowledging receipt of legacy income, or making decisions about an estate and any arising issues should not be undertaken by anyone other than the trustees.

“To do otherwise presents risks for not only the trustees but also the employees involved as, even if they were acting in good faith, both could find themselves personally liable if an issue were to arise later down the line.”

Katherine explained that it was unlikely to be feasible or practical for charity trustees to oversee every action that might arise.

She said this is why it is  imperative that an official delegated authority document exists for the protection of the charity’s trustees, employees, and the whole charity.  

Katherine said: “This document clearly sets out which charity employee or employees are permitted to undertake which tasks, and how far their powers of decision-making extend. It ensures certainty, clarity and accountability up, down and across the organisation.

“It is also essential that existing forms of delegated authority are reviewed and updated periodically.

“For example, internal restructures or changes of job titles can result in the reassignment of permissions or decision-making powers, and these need to be reflected in the delegated authority so it continues to fulfil its purpose.

“Also, trustees may wish to bring certain aspects of the legacy management role under their control, or to rely more heavily on specialist staff to oversee additional aspects of the legacy management process, allowing them greater decision-making scope.”

Katherine added: “Here at Thursfields, we have the skills and experience to prepare a fresh delegated authority, to review an existing one, and to provide specialist advice and support in this area.”

Any charity wanting more information can call Katherine Ellis on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email her at kellis@thursfields.co.uk.

KATHERINE ELLIS colour

Katherine Ellis,

Senior Associate Solicitor, Charities and Communities

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