Church members that wish to include their church in their will or pour over trusts, or settlor trusts for that matter, should provide a copy of the documents to the church. The passage of time, and changes in lives, might make the church beneficiary that was unaware to begin with to continue to be unaware of the bequest in time to prevent the bequest from being looted.

In Kogudus v Jurgenstein, Slip Op., (Cal. App. 2018)(unpublished), the caretakers allegedly had the pour over trust changed to make themselves the beneficiaries of the trust. The church did not learn of the amendment to the trust until many years later. However, in this instance, it was not too late to attempt to recover the bequest. The statute of limitation had ostensibly run but because the church did not learn of the amendment of the trust until long after the amendment was enacted, the appellate court reversed the trial court holding that the statute of limitations might not have run if the church could prove at trial it did not have inquiry notice of the amendment to the trust until long after the actual amendment.

Churches that receive documents containing bequests should preserve them as valuable papers and annually determine the status. Sometimes elderly members can no longer participate in the life of the church due to infirmity and caretakers may have to move them outside of the churches’ operational area. If the bequest is of sufficient concern, then a church can engage counsel, a private detective, a skip tracer, or other means in the internet age to determine the status and possibly even keep in contact with their elderly member. A church should have a committee that has as its sole task to minister to the elderly, anyway, and keep in contact.

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