Do I have to pay a verbal pledge to a charity?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Do I have to pay a verbal pledge to a charity?

An elderly relative received a phone call from a charity and made a verbal pledge ($25). She does not have any money, and has significant dementia. The charity is now calling like a bill collector, threatening legal action if the pledge is not paid. The family is in intense turmoil as to the true legal liability of this situation.

Asked on April 30, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Washington

Answers:

Kenneth Berger / Kenneth A. Berger, Attorney at Law

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your relative may have more important issues to deal with that the pestering phone calls from the charity. 

In Washington, if a person gets significant dementia their family needs to assess the relative's entire situtation for a possible guardianship.  If the guardianship is put in place, the relative will typically not be held responsible for the contracts they enter into while they are incompetent.  In some cases, having a power of attorney may reduce or eliminate the need for a guardianship.

As always, my comments are only applicable to Washington State and are not a substitute for getting competent, local, and more comprehensive, legal help.

 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A verbal--or more properly, oral--pledge to a charity is most likely not enforceable. The law does not enforce "gratuituos promises," or promises made by one party without there being any consideration (anything of value) offered by the other party, unless there was some signficant reliance by the other party on the promise, which there probably is not in this case. Also, if there was consideration--which would turn the promise into a contract--contracts are typically not enforceable if made by a mentally incompetent person.

All that said, if this is legitimate charity (so, a good cause), the best thing may be for someone to simply pay the $25 on her behalf--that may end the situation with the least strife and difficulty.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption