With additional demand anticipated from within the profession due to COVID-19, a reminder of the two trusts comprising the Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund

Q. What does the Fund do?

A. Broadly speaking, it makes grants of money to solicitors in Scotland or the dependants of such solicitors.

Q. Are there restrictions on how it can do that?

A. Yes. The money in the Fund can be paid out only in accordance with the purposes of one of the two separate trusts under which it is held.

Q. What are these trusts?

A. First, there is the general Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund. It was established in 1961 by a deed of declaration of trust. The trust purposes are very broad indeed: its funds shall be held “for any purpose which the Trustees may consider to be for the benefit of such of the Beneficiaries as may… be in necessitous circumstances”. The beneficiaries are solicitors in Scotland or their dependants.

Q. How does someone apply?

A. The application has to be supported by a solicitor, and we ask for the names and addresses of a couple of referees; they don’t have to be solicitors. We have a form which has to be completed and sent to us. All the information is treated confidentially. The form asks about the applicant’s personal and financial circumstances. Most of the people who apply at the moment are in poor health, but that isn’t a prerequisite for making an application. All that matters is that there are “necessitous circumstances”. We fully expect the economic damage caused by COVID-19 to create those for many practitioners and their families.

Q. Does an applicant have to say what he or she wants?

A. No. We simply decide whether the applicant should be given a grant of money. If we think that he or she should be given a grant we then decide how much to pay, and we pay it.

Q. Does the applicant have to account for how the grant has been used?

A. No.

Q. What is the second trust that you mentioned?

A. It is named the Tod Endowment Trust. It distributes money for the purpose of providing holidays in Scotland. Grants are made to provide rest, a change of air and recuperation in Scotland.

Q. Are applications made directly to the Tod Endowment Trust?

A. No. The trust gives sums of money to the Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund so that we can administer it and distribute it in accordance with the purposes of the Tod Endowment Trust, i.e. “to defray the cost of obtaining rest or recuperation in Scotland”.

Q. Who is entitled to apply?

A. Those who have been in practice as solicitors in Scotland for at least two years before application, together with their spouses, partners and dependants.

Q. How do they apply?

A. Again, we have a form which has to be completed and sent to us, and all information is treated confidentially. The form does not ask about the applicant’s personal or financial circumstances.

Q. Does an applicant have to say what he or she wants?

A. Yes. We ask the applicant to say how much is sought and the purpose and reason for the application. We look for vouching, e.g. a quotation from a hotel or other evidence of travel costs.

Q. Does the applicant have to account for how the grant has been used?

A. We would expect to see evidence that the money has been spent for its intended purposes.

Q. Does the application need to be supported by a solicitor?

A. No.

Q. Do you ask for the names and addresses of referees?

A. No.

Q. What is the effect of the coronavirus lockdown?

A. As we know, the 2020 Regulations create rules about travel and they create criminal offences for breaches of those rules. Non-essential travel is prohibited and the trustees cannot facilitate a breach of the regulations in any way whatsoever. However, the situation is continually evolving: every application will be judged on its own merits rather than under any blanket policy, and the lockdown won’t last forever.

Q. Who are the trustees of the Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund?

A. The present trustees are the President and Vice President of both the Scottish Law Agents Society and the Law Society of Scotland, together with several other senior officers.

Q. Where can applicants get application forms or further information?

A. Forms are available from scottishlawagentssociety@gmail.com or by writing to The Secretary, Scottish Law Agents Society, 14 The Firs, Millholm Road, Cathcart G44 3YB. Specific enquiries should be directed there too. Both the trusts that I’ve mentioned are registered with OSCR, and general information can be found on its website.

The Author

Andrew Stevenson is secretary to the committee of the trustees of the Scottish Solicitors’ Benevolent Fund

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