Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1957 No. 36 - March 20, 1957
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

LIBRARY ‑- CHARITABLE TRUSTS

The trustees of the A. E. Larson Library trust fund for the benefit of the city of Yakima may expend monies from the fund for the rental of temporary library space and moving of books, while a new regional library is being constructed so long as the benefits accrue to the Yakima Public Library.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                  March 20, 1957

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 36



Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins, Chief Examiner

            Division of Municipal Corporations

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have asked our opinion on the following question, here set out as contained in the letter from the Yakima city attorney accompanying your letter:

            "May the City of Yakima legally expend monies from the A. E. Larson Library Trust Fund for the purpose of paying for the rental of temporary library space while a new regional library is being constructed, and for the purpose of paying costs of moving books, equipment and supplies from the old Regional Library Building to temporary library quarters and then back to the new regional library building after construction is completed, the old and new regional library buildings and the temporary library quarters all being within the corporate limits of the city?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The exact language of the bequest is as follows:

            "'I give, bequeath and devise to the people of the city of Yakima the sum of $50,000.00 to be used for the improvement of the Yakima Public Library.'"

            Our reply is in the affirmative as modified by the following analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            This opinion is restricted to answering the above set out question and is not to be considered an opinion on the validity of the A. E. Larson trust fund.

            The A. E. Larson trust fund, established for the improvement of the Yakima Public Library, is a charitable trust.  See Scott on Trusts § 370, page 3640, Volume IV.  The trustees of a charitable trust, like the trustees of a private trust, have such powers as are conferred upon them in specific words by the terms of the trust or are necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes of the trust and are not forbidden by the terms of the trust.  See Scott on Trusts, § 380, page 2736, Volume IV;Monroe v. Winn, 16 Wn. (2d) 497.  In harmony with this power the trustees of the A. E. Larson trust fund may validly expend moneys for rent on temporary quarters for the Yakima Public Library while new library facilities are under construction, and for the removal thereto of books, supplies and equipment so long as all such books, supplies and equipment are determined to be the property of the Yakima Public Library, or are to be made available to the people of the city of Yakima.  And this is so even if there occurs thereby incidental benefits to others than the people of the city of Yakima.

            If, however, the trustees of the A. E. Larson trust fund contemplate expenditures on objects which will not benefit the people of Yakima or over which the Yakima Public Library has neither legal control nor title, then a court of competent jurisdiction must be petitioned for directions.  In such an event it should be noted that the attorney general is a proper party in any action to construe provisions of a testamentary charitable trust.  Reagh v. Hamilton, 194 Wash. 449.

            It should be added parenthetically that courts look kindly on legacies and devises to charity and go to the full limit of their ability to sustain them.  In Re Wilson's Estate, 111 Wash. 491.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is our opinion then that funds may be expended from the A. E. Larson trust fund for the purposes requested, but not on objects that are not the property of the Yakima Public Library or which do not benefit the people of Yakima.

            We hope the foregoing will be of help to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


WILLIAM E. WALLD
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo