Assessing the Perpetual Charitable Trust: Are the Wishes of the Dead More Important Than the Needs of the Living?

Assessing the Perpetual Charitable Trust: Are the Wishes of the Dead More Important Than the Needs of the Living?

  • Case
  • Teaching Notes
Abstract

Are the wishes of the dead more important than the needs of the living? This question is prompted by consideration of the Hershey Trust Company, a perpetual charitable trust that not only owns and operates the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania but also owns a controlling interest in various Hershey-related for-profit entities. This unusual arrangement, and the conditions under which it was formed, have produced a situation in which a small, private boarding school for low-income students has an endowment of USD 12 billion (in addition to its other corporate and real estate interests). The trust has been operating according to its founder’s wishes for decades, but some have wondered whether its resources could be put to better use for more urgent needs. This case will invite students to consider the question of how we should weigh the needs of the living against the wishes of the dead.

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