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Decision No. 681
October 29 1992
In Re: Review of Bishop's Decision of Law in the Alabama-West Florida Conference Concerning Custody and Management of Funds Given and Designated for a Specific Conference Agency.
Digest of Case
The presiding bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference received a request for a ruling of law as to the disposition of funds left in the estate to the Board of Trustees of the Annual Conference. The beneficiary of these funds was to be the United Methodist Children's Home, jointly owned by the Alabama-West Florida and the North Alabama Annual Conference. The late Mrs. J. B. Skinner left fifty percent (50%) of her residuary estate to the Trustees of the Alabama-West Florida Conference for the benefit of the United Methodist Children's Home in Selma, Alabama. Subsequent to that time, the Annual Conference of 1988 directed that discretionary endowment funds be deposited with the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation. In requesting an episcopal ruling, the following question was raised: Because the United Methodist Children's Home is an "orphanage" and an incorporated board, "does this provision of the Discipline mean that the Trustees may consider placing the estate in question with the Home or are the Trustees bound to follow the 1988 Annual Conference resolution to keep the estate in the United Methodist Foundation? The question is in need of a clear answer so that further deliberations by the Trustees concerning the estate can be undertaken with more clarity. The presiding bishop ruled that this did not negate the direction of the Will. We quote with favor the final paragraph of the ruling by the presiding bishop: The paragraph cited from the 1988 Book of Discipline refers to funds under the care of the churches, colleges, camps, conference grounds, orphanages, or incorporated boards. Many funds are donated in one way or another or accumulated by these agencies and they have responsibility for them. In this instance, the money was not left to the Board of Directors of the United Methodist Children's Home, but specifically to the Alabama-West Florida Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is charged with the responsibility of managing the funds on the behalf of the United Methodist Children's Home and the returns on the funds must be given for the benefit of the Home. The Trustees were directed by the Conference to deposit the funds with the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation but the ownership of the funds remains with the Trustees and the realized income is to be given to the Home. The decision of the presiding bishop is affirmed, provided that it is understood that the Trustees have the prerogative of placing the funds in the Foundation. The Trustees are not mandated to do so, in that these funds are not discretionary. The Trustees are not restricted to giving only the income to the Children's Home.