Knipe v The British Racing Drivers’ Motor Sport Charity & ors [2020] WTLR 1333

WTLR Issue: Winter 2020 #181










By clause 8 of his will the deceased gave the residue of his estate to four institutions in various shares, including a gift in clause 8(a) of a 50% share of his residuary estate to ‘the British Racing Drivers Club Benevolent Fund’ and in clause 8(d) of a 10% share to ‘the Cancer Research Fund’.

There was no institution with the name of the British Racing Drivers Club Benevolent Fund. The second defendant, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, was a well-known unincorporated association, but not a registered charity. The only benevolent fund administered by the second defendant was the first defendant, the British Racing Drivers’ Club Motor Sport Charity, which was a registered charity.

Nor was there an existing registered charity known by the name of the Cancer Research Fund. The fourth and fifth defendants (Cancer Research UK and World Cancer Research Fund) had agreed to share the gift to the Cancer Research Fund between them, but that did not protect the claimant, as executor, in case another charity were to seek to be entitled.

The original will file had been destroyed, and therefore any potential evidence as to the deceased’s instructions had been lost.

The claimant, as the executor and trustee of an estate, applied for summary judgment under CPR 24 in his claim under CPR 64.2 for a declaration that on a proper construction of the will:

  1. (a) the first defendant, the British Racing Drivers’ Club Motor Sport Charity, was the sole person entitled under the gift of residue to the British Racing Drivers Club Benevolent Fund; and
  2. (b) the claimant held the gift of residue to the Cancer Research Fund upon trust for the charitable purpose of funding cancer research, alternatively upon a cy-près scheme.

By clause 3 of his will the deceased gave his share in a property to his mother. His long-term partner and fiancée, the sixth defendant, had made a claim against the estate and the residuary beneficiaries under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The claimant applied for summary judgment in respect of his claim for a declaration that he be at liberty to distribute the proceeds of the deceased’s interest in the property to his mother prior to the resolution of the sixth defendant’s claim.


  1. (1) The case fell into the category of cases where summary judgment was appropriate. The will raised short points of construction on which the parties had had the opportunity to present evidence and arguments. The claimant had done so, but the defendants had understandably chosen not to do so, because they did not challenge the claim. It was also proper to deal with the claim, for a direction for immediate payment out of the estate to the deceased’s mother, summarily.
  2. (2) The deceased was a retired professional racing driver, and a long-standing member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Given the deceased’s professional background, his membership of the Club and his long familiarity with its affairs, as well as the absence of any other candidate, the deceased cannot have had any institution in mind as the beneficiary of his bounty under clause 8(a) apart from the first defendant. The opening words of the phrase ‘the British Racing Drivers Club Benevolent Fund’ linked the identity of the intended beneficiary to the second defendant, and the first defendant was the only benevolent fund administered by the second defendant. This was a simple case of construing the words in the will in the context in which the deceased used them.
  3. (3) The question for the court was whether the gift in clause 8(b) amounted to:
    1. (i) a gift to an institution which did exist but had ceased to exist at the date of the deceased’s death;
    2. (ii) a gift to an institution which never existed; or
    3. (iii) a gift for a charitable purpose.
  4. The meaning of the phrase ‘Cancer Research Fund’ was ambiguous on the face of it, and accordingly s21 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982 applied, so that extrinsic evidence might be admitted to assist in its interpretation. Research on the website of the Charity Commission showed that ‘Cancer Research Fund’ was the name historically taken by certain subsidiary charities of larger registered charities. However, all these subsidiaries had been removed from the register of charities. In 2004, when the deceased made his will, there were four subsidiary charities so named, but none of them remained in existence at the time of his death. There was no evidence that the deceased had any particular registered charity in mind of the time of making his will, and neither did he have any strong connection to any particular cancer research charity. The phrase ‘Cancer Research Fund’ did not refer to a particular institution, even though expressed with initial capital letters. Instead it referred to the general charitable purposes of cancer research. It was therefore for the claimant as executor to apply that part of residue to that general charitable purpose, as for example dividing it between the fourth and fifth defendants. Even if it were intended to refer to a particular institution, there would be no difficulty in discerning a general charitable intent, given the existence of other charitable elements in the will.
  1. (4) There was no good reason to hold up payment of the proceeds of sale of the deceased’s share of the property pending resolution of the sixth defendant’s claim. On the figures it seemed highly unlikely that her claim would be agreed or adjudicated in such a sum as would eat into those proceeds of sale. Moreover, she had not challenged the direction being sought. In any event, the direction merely gave personal protection to the executor against any claim for devastavit or breach of trust. It did not take away the rights of the sixth defendant as against other persons, including the deceased’s mother.
  2. (5) The claimant’s costs of the application would be met from the deceased’s estate on the indemnity basis.
JUDGMENT HHJ PAUL MATTHEWS: Introduction [1] This is my judgment on an application by the claimant by undated notice for summary judgment under CPR Part 24, brought in a claim under CPR Part 8. The claim is not contested, but, because the claim is brought under Part 8, judgment in default is not available (r12.2), …
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Counsel Details

Matthew Wales (Guildhall Chambers, 23 Broad Street, Bristol BS1 2HG, tel 0117 930 9000, email instructed by Harrison Clark Rickerbys (62 Cornhill, London EC3V 3NH, tel 020 7489 6320) for the claimant.

Cases Referenced

Legislation Referenced

  • Administration of Justice Act 1982, s21
  • Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975