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Voluntary association

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Title: Voluntary association  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Elles Bougent, Outline of anarchism, Outline of community, Minarchism, Law of equal liberty
Collection: Associations, Civil Society, Legal Entities, Legal Terms, Public Administration, Types of Organization
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Voluntary association

A voluntary association or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, unincorporated association, common-interest association,[1]:266 or just an association) is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as

  • In California, during the 1980s, then Los Angeles district attorney Ira Reiner decided to use California's unincorporated associations law to attack street gangs and the habit of their members of tagging graffiti in public spaces, in an attempt to abate vandalism and to recover cleanup costs. He sued the street gangs by name, with cases titled such as City of Los Angeles v. The Bloods and City of Los Angeles v. The Crips, which then allowed the city to go after any member of the street gang, as a member of the unincorporated association being sued, for damages resulting from graffiti tagging involving that gang's name.
  • In Texas, state law has statutes concerning unincorporated non-profit associations that allow unincorporated associations that meet certain criteria to operate as entities independent of their members, with the right to own property, make contracts, sue and be sued, with limited liability for their officers and members.[21]


    See also

    Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights also protects the right to freedom of assembly and association.

    [24]:Universal Declaration of Human RightsThe freedom of association stands in the

    Freedom of association

    The German Civil Code sets out different rights and rules for an unincorporated association (nicht eingetragener Verein) with legal identity (Vereine, art. 21-79 BGB) versus an incorporated association (eingetragener Verein) with full legal personality, which the law treats as partnerships (Gesellschaften, art. 705-740 BGB). Associations can be for-profit (wirtschaftlicher Verein), non-for-profit (Idealverein), or public (gemeinnütziger Verein).


    In France, all voluntary associations are non-profit. They may count as unincorporated (association non-déclarée) or incorporated (association déclarée), public (association d'utilité publique) or private, and are created in terms of and governed by the Waldeck-Rousseau Act 1901. This is why association loi 1901 is subjoined to their name, except in Alsace-Moselle which is governed by local law in this regard (the area was German in 1901) and are therefore called association loi 1908.


    Certain civil-law systems classify an association as a special form of contractual relationship.

    Civil law

    Under the Quebec Civil Code an association is categorized as a type of statutory specific contract set forth in a constitution. An association can become incorporated with its own legal identity so that it may, e.g., open a bank account, enter into contracts (rent real estate, hire employees, take out an insurance policy), or sue or be sued.


    [23] Many clubs and societies begin life as an unincorporated body and seek to attain incorporated status to protect its members from legal liability and in many cases to seek government financial assistance only available to an incorporated body. Clubs and societies wishing to incorporate must meet the provisions of the relevant state act and lodge their constitution with the corresponding state government authority.[22]

  • ^ a b Prins HEL et al. (2010). Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Cengage Learning.
  • ^ Definition
  • ^ Bradburn B. (2009). The Citizenship Revolution: Politics and the Creation of the American Union, 1774-1804, p217. University of Virginia Press.
  • ^ Politics on the Margins: The Athenian "Hetaireiai" in 415 B.C.. Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte.
  • ^ Ascough, Richard S. "Greco-Roman Philosophic, Religious, and Voluntary Associations". In Community Formation in the Early Church and the Church Today. Edited by Richard N. Longenecker, 3–24. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002
  • ^ Kohn M. (2003). Merchant Associations in Pre-Industrial Europe. Ch. 16 in The Origins of Western Economic Success: Commerce, Finance, and Government in Preindustrial Europe.
  • ^ (1990). The role of institutions in the revival of trade: The law merchant, private judges, and the champagne fairs. The role of institutions in the revival of trade: The law merchant, private judges, and the champagne fairs. Economics & Politics.
  • ^ [The Rise and Fall of the Merchant Guilds: Re-thinking the Comparative Study of Commercial Institutions in Premodern Europe. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Preprint.
  • ^ Institutions and European Trade: Merchant Guilds, 1000-1800Review of published in Reviews in History.
  • ^ Starr M. (1919). A Worker Looks At History, Ch. 7: The Guilds. Plebs League. Google Books entry.
  • ^ History of London The Guilds and Livery Companies.
  • ^ [1981] EWCA Civ 2, [1982] 1 WLR 522
  • ^ The definition was for tax purposes, but was expressed to be of general application.
  • ^ XU, Y. & Ngai, N. P. (2011). "Moral Resources and Political Capital: Theorizing the Relationship Between Voluntary Service Organizations and the Development of Civil Society in China. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. 40(2), 247–269". Retrieved April 17, 2011. 
  • ^ For example, in the United Kingdom an unincorporated association is assessable to corporation tax.
  • ^ In most common law legal systems, partnership is defined by statute as "the relationship which subsists between persons carrying on a business in common with a view of profit"
  • ^ Pettit, Philip (2009). Equity and the Law of Trusts. Oxford University Press. p. 62.  
  • ^ a b Pettit, Philip (2009). Equity and the Law of Trusts. Oxford University Press. pp. 62–65.  
  • ^ Report on Unincorporated Associations (Report). Scottish Law Commission. November 2009. SCOT LAW COM No 217. Retrieved 1 February 2014. "We are not aware of any material differences between the law of Scotland and the law of England and Wales regarding unincorporated associations."
  • ^ Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations, p108. Oxford University Press.
  • ^ "Nonprofit Organizations". Texas Secretary of State. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  • ^ "Associations Incorporation Act 1985". Government of South Australia, Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  • ^ "How to incorporate". The Government of South Australia, Consumer & Business Services. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  • ^ "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". The United Nations. Retrieved September 8, 2012. 
  • References

    • For English law on Unincorporated Associations see:Ashton & Reid on Clubs and Associations, Jordans, 2nd ed (2011); Stewart, Campbell, Baughen 'The Law of Unincorporated Associations', OUP (2011), ISBN 978-0199600397.

Each state sets its own laws as to what constitutes an unincorporated association and how it is to be treated under the laws. In the United States, voluntary associations which were incorporated were "pre-eminent" in collective action.[20]

United States

Scottish law on unincorporated associations is essentially the same as English law.[19]


Accordingly, on dissolution, the distribution of these rights depends on how they were held. A purpose trust may by its nature survive the dissolution of the association, or it may not. If it fails as a result of the dissolution, then the rights will be held on resulting trust for the contributors, unless they can be shown to have renounced their right to such a trust in their favour. If the rights are held subject to contract, then they will be divided among the surviving membership upon dissolution, according to the terms of the contracts inter se or an implied term according to contribution. If, as a result of this contract or statute, no member can claim, the rights will pass to the Crown as bona vacantia. This conclusion has also been suggested where the association dissolves because only one members remains, although this has been doubted by some commentators who believe the last members should be entitled to the rights.[18]

Several theories have been proposed as to the way that such associations hold rights. A transfer may be considered to have been made to the association's members directly as joint tenants or tenants in common. Alternatively, the funds transferred may be considered to have been under the terms of a private purpose trust. Many purpose trusts fail for want of a beneficiary and this may therefore may result in the gift failing. However, some purpose trusts are valid, and, accordingly, some cases have decided that the rights associated with unincorporated associations are held on this basis. The dominant theory, however, is that the rights are transferred to the members or officers absolutely, perhaps on trust for the members, but are importantly bound by contracts inter se.[18]

Associations that are organized for profit or financial gain are usually called English law, an unincorporated association consists of two or more members bound by the rules of a society which has at some point in time, been founded.[17]

In most countries, an unincorporated association does not have separate legal personality, and few members of the association usually enjoy limited liability.[14] However, in some countries they are treated as having separate legal personality for tax purposes.[15] However, because of their lack of legal personality, legacies to unincorporated associations are sometimes subject to general common law prohibitions against purpose trusts.

...where two or more persons are bound together for one or more common purposes by mutual undertakings, each having mutual duties and obligations, in an organization which has rules identifying in whom control of the organization and its funds are vested, and which can be joined or left at will.[13]

A standard definition of an unincorporated association was given in the English trust law case Conservative and Unionist Central Office v Burrell (1981):[12]

Legal status

In the United Kingdom, craft guilds were more successful than merchant guilds[10] and formed livery companies which exerted significant influence on society.[11]

In preindustrial societies, governmental administrative duties were often handled by voluntary associations such as guilds. In medieval Europe, guilds often controlled towns.[6] Merchant guilds enforced contracts through embargoes and sanctions on their members, and also adjudicated disputes.[7] However, by the 1800s, merchant guilds had largely disappeared.[8] Economic historians have debated the precise role that merchant guilds played in premodern society and economic growth.[9]

[5] to private religious or professional associations.[4] Voluntary associations are a broad and original form of nonprofit organizations, and have existed since ancient history. In



  • History 1
  • Legal status 2
  • Common law 3
    • England 3.1
    • Scotland 3.2
    • United States 3.3
    • Australia 3.4
    • Canada 3.5
  • Civil law 4
    • France 4.1
    • Germany 4.2
  • Freedom of association 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8

Strictly speaking, in many jurisdictions no formalities are necessary to start an association. In some jurisdictions, there is a minimum for the number of persons starting an association. Some jurisdictions require that the association register with the police or other official body to inform the public of the association's existence. This could be a tool of political control, and also a way of protecting the economy from fraud. In many such jurisdictions, only a registered association is a juristic person whose membership is not responsible for the financial acts of the association. Any group of persons may, of course, work as an association but in such case, the persons making a transaction in the name of the association all take responsibility for it.

[3] Associations may also be incorporated rather than unincorporated; for example, in the United States associations gained additional powers by incorporating.[1], and various other types of groups. Membership is not necessarily voluntary, as it may be effectively required in order to work, which has led to a preference for the term common-interest association to describe groups which form out of a common interest.environmental groups, professional associations and learned societies, trade unions, trade associations Common examples include [2]

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