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Charitable Contributions - Part 1

• Is a "pledge" legally enforceable? That was the issue before a New Jersey state appeals court in an important case. An individual pledged to give a specified amount of money to a religious organization, but later changes his mind. The organization filed a lawsuit seeking a court order compelling the individual to honor the pledge. A trial court ruled in favor of the organization, and the individual appealed. The state appeals court began its opinion by noting that "the great bulk of [states], including New Jersey, hold that a charitable pledge constitutes an enforceable contract." This rule admittedly has created some confusion, since an enforceable contract generally consists of an exchange (each party gives and receives something of value). But what benefit does the donor receive in exchange for his or her pledge? Why should a pledge be viewed as an enforceable contract rather than ...

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  • November 1, 1989

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