A recent case raised the question of whether an association could consist of a single person. Whilst the question might not seem to be of tremendous interest per se, it was in the case in point because the association had assets of more than £1¾ million.
It involved an association called the Performing and Captive Animals Defence League. This was founded in 1914 as an association. Over the years it acquired investments and a property, but the membership declined and by 2006 only a single member remained. The surviving member wished to give the association’s assets to charity but, before she could do so, she had to be sure of her entitlement to administer the assets as she wished.
The court decided that the association could not be regarded as a charity because one of its objects was to change the law regarding the treatment of animals, which is not a charitable purpose. As an unincorporated association, the members had a beneficial ownership of the association’s assets, subject to any restrictions imposed on them by the association’s rules.
The surviving member of the association was therefore beneficially entitled to its assets and could dispose of them in any way that did not break its rules.