Legal personality is the ability to hold property, to sue, and to be sued in one's own name. You probably knew this. What I'm going to tell you is who has and who doesn't (In England and Wales).

You have it. Your gran has it. Your dog doesn't have it. Your band (probably) doesn't have it. Your bank does. Trusts definitely don't. Basically any natural person does, anything you might class as a corporation or company does. The interesting cases are those who don't, or which are borderline.

First up on our freakshow is: The partnership. Registered professional partnerships do have personality. The unregistered partnership, like the unincorporated members' club does not. As these things do manifestly own property, judges are faced with the problem of explaining them; current vogue is to explain the association as being constituted by a contract between the members, and the property being held on trust for the members by the treasurer (or other account signatories), the terms of the trust being the rules of the club (those rules also constituting the contract). Partnerships often face the difficulty that they have less well-defined rules, but are still so explained.

As to what happens when one wishes to sue such an organisation, one may either sue a single, representative member, or the whole membership. Similarly, the organisation, wishing to sue, may be able to get all the members to join as plaintiffs, but most probably the officers of a large society would have to sue on behalf of the whole body.

The second interesting case is...The Friendly Society. These do have legal personality allowing them to sue and be sued (Their personality arising from registration under the appropriate legislation), but they can't own property in their own right, and their estate is analysed as if they were unincorporated.

The final interesting case is the corporation created by royal charter. Today, few of these exist, with the exception of the universities. These are interesting because, unlike other incorporated bodies, nothing is ultra vires to them. Their powers are circumscribed only by explicit provisions in their charter, or by legislation. This means that it may be legally wrong, in one sense or another, for someone acting as their directing mind and will to bind them to acts that transgress those limits, but the corporation is still bound, as they are held to have the capacity of natural persons, and so it is as if you or I had been bound by an agent. The one difference is that you or I exist in a very real sense from our agents, and can repudiate their acts; in the case of a body corporate, the agents are typically also those in control, so the act will not be repudiated.

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