Md. Nat'l Bank v. United Jewish Appeal Fed'n, Inc.

286 Md. 274, 407 A.2d 1130 (1979)



The law of Maryland with regard to the enforcement of pledges or subscriptions to charitable organizations is that a promise which the promisor should reasonably expect to induce action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee and which does induce such action or forbearance is binding if injustice can be avoided only by enforcement of the promise.


Decedent pledged $200,000 to a charity. When decedent died, he had an unpaid amount of $133,500 in his pledge. His last will and testament was admitted to probate and letters were issued to decedent’s personal representatives. The personal representatives disallowed the claim for the balance of the pledge, therefore, the charity filed a petition praying that the claim be allowed and moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment. On appeal, the court vacated the order and disallowed the charity's claim.


Does a pledge to a charitable institution survive the death of the pledgor and is it an enforceable obligation of his estate if no others donated due to his donation and the donee did not enter into any agreements in contemplation of the pledge?




The court held that the pledge was a gratuitous promise and was not legally enforceable because there was no consideration as required by contract law. In so holding, the court found that the decedent's pledge was not made in consideration of the pledges of others, and there was no evidence that others in fact made pledges in consideration of the decedent's pledge. The court further found that no binding agreement was made by the charity on the strength of the decedent's pledge, that the pledge was not for a specific enterprise, that no allocation by the charity was threatened by the failure to collect the decedent's pledge in its entirety, and that the pledge prompted no action or forbearance of a definite and substantial character on the part of the charity.

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