At Hugh James we have a multi-disciplinary charities legal team offering complete legal support with the right blend of expertise and experience.

Hugh James can support charities in a number of ways:

  • sound commercial advice in relation to special projects, for example a review of governance structure and documentation, or making arrangements to work on a joint project with another charity;
  • advice on governance and best practice to assist with compliance in order to pass a review of operations by the Charity Commission; 
  • interpreting and amending all types of constitution;
  • training for both employees and trustees; and
  • practical advice on helping your charity operate most efficiently and effectively.

We can offer complete legal support in the following categories:


Constitutional matters

Increasingly charities find their attention is focused on good governance and accountability. We can assist in the improvement of every aspect of your organisation in these areas, paying particular attention to matters including:

  • charity trustees’ duties and powers, responsibilities and conflicts;
  • internal governance and risk management structures;
  • interpreting and amending all types of constitution – including trusts, companies, charter bodies and unincorporated associations; and
  • structural issues – including establishing and re-organising group structures.

Charity legacies

We are often asked to advise on problematic legacies and in these cases our goal is always to balance maximising legacy funds with the need to avoid bad publicity which can have a lasting impact on future revenue including:

  • all legal aspects of legacy fundraising;
  • utilising tax exempt status to maximise legacy funds;
  • all contentious and non-contentious aspects of probates and trusts;
  • cross-border legacies and fundraising;
  • charities defending Inheritance Act, propriety estoppel, mutual will and related claims;
  • allocation of legacies left to defunct charities;
  • defending wills or challenging ‘death bed’ wills to preserve intended benefit for charity;
  • rectification and construction of wills;
  • charities seeking redress from dilatory or fraudulent executors and attorneys;
  • indemnities for executors and trustees;
  • correcting executors’ misallocation of inheritance tax; and
  • splitting life interest trusts to utilise charitable inheritance tax exemption.

Corporate services

Choosing the correct legal support is important in any business and the Hugh James charity team are experienced in advising organisations on the best structure to suit them including:

  • a company limited by guarantee with charitable status (a charitable company);
  • a charitable trust;
  • a charitable incorporated organisation (permitted under the 2006 Charity’s Act);
  • an unincorporated association; and
  • a voluntary organisation.

Whichever structure is appropriate, Hugh James attend to the complete registration process so that you can focus on achieving your charitable objectives. Good governance is essential and trustee boards are ultimately responsible for ensuring this. Hugh James can assist charity clients in putting in place appropriate procedures for a variety of risk management issues including:

  • anti discrimination;
  • asset protection;
  • health and safety;
  • legal and accounting compliance;
  • risk management; and
  • trustee training.

Charities often engage in fundraising activities which involve trading activities. Consequently trustees must always take care to ensure that tax liabilities are not unwittingly incurred. Contrary to popular belief, there is no general exemption from tax for charities. A charity’s trading activities are often carried out through a non-charitable subsidiary – often a limited company.

The Hugh James charity team are experts in advising on operational requirements of charities. In particular, the relationship between the charity and its subsidiary must be carefully structured and monitored to ensure that charity law obligations are met.

Employment services

The Hugh James employment team provide a comprehensive range of services in dealing with professional and operational HR issues and handles a variety of employment work including employment law advice and tribunal representation, HR consultancy, and training.

We are able to advice on a number of employment legal issues including:

  • issues including issues around fixed term employees;
  • policy and procedure reviews;
  • restructuring and potential redundancies;
  • equality and discrimination;
  • part time pension claims;
  • grievance and disciplinary issues and industrial relation disputes; and
  • advising on a number of ill-health issues, particularly with regard to employees who have been off on long term sick.

Commercial property services

It is likely that buying or leasing a property or land is one of the biggest transactions that a charity will undertake. Astute advice from an experienced charity solicitor is essential to ensure that you achieve the best solution for you.

Our property experts can assist charities with legal matters including:

  • acquiring property or land;
  • planning issues;
  • raising finance;
  • joint ventures;
  • conveyancing;
  • landlord and tenant disputes including dilapidations, breaches of covenants and rent and service charge arrears; and
  • nuisance, trespass boundary, restrictive covenants and easements disputes.

Commercial litigation

As part of its business activities, a charity will undoubtedly enter into contractual arrangements.

From time to time you may need expert advice to assist you in resolving disputes with suppliers, leases or indeed employees. At Hugh James we have legal experts in dispute resolution available offering a solution-focused value for money approach to your contract management problems.

Unlike other businesses, charities must always remember their overriding duty is to protect their charitable assets. Furthermore, if the trustees are to avoid personal liability, they must always be ready to justify their decisions in commercial terms. This duty is also paramount when disputes arise in connection with a charity’s commercial activities.

Hugh James specialise in providing constructive advice, taking into account all relevant issues, including the particular constraints which apply in situations involving charities.

Charity review visits

Charity Review Visits are undertaken by The Charity Commission with the aim of improving the performance of the charities visited though “bespoke issue-led advice and support”.

A review visit is not an investigation or an audit but an opportunity for The Charity Commission to have a look at the charity’s activities, governance and finance, and to see the way the charity operates in context.

The Charity Commission then provides informed advice on legal requirements or good practice that need to be implemented. Our team can support clients who are preparing for a review visit and assist in the implementation of advice given by the Charity Commission once a review has taken place.

Small charitable trusts

Churches, Memorial Halls and Community Centres.

Changes to the statutory framework governing small Charitable Trusts, in particular regarding the requirements of the Charity Commission and the Land Registry, and concerns regarding the potential liability of Trustees, have caused an increasing number of small Charitable Trusts to instigate comprehensive reviews of their governing documentation.

Hugh James is able to provide assistance in this area, including:

  • interpreting and advising as to the content of Deeds and Documents governing the operation of Churches and other small Charitable Trusts;
  • advising as to the duties and liabilities of Charity Trustees;
  • drafting Declarations of Trust in order to update governing documentation, to include the amendment of requirements imposed by old constitutions where appropriate;
  • Deeds of Appointment and Retirement of Trustees, and the consequent transfers of land (now required by the Land Registry); and
  • first registrations of title of land owned by Charitable Trusts.
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