Now lets try that same set of facts, but this time lets have Cindy leaving a Will. And yes, I know I am shamefully behind on posting but I have some real clients and who knew that took so much time? I do apologize to the 2 or 3 people out there actually reading this blog:> I will post it now and clean it up later if it needs editing. . . . .
Cindy Saver goes to a lawyer and has a Will drawn up that meets all her state’s requirements for form and formalities. She has an excellent Lawyer who leaves nothing out and nothing up to chance.
Cindy leaves her animals and her $60,000 bank account to pay for their upkeep to Sandy, her BFF. In addition, she tales out a $50,000 life insurance policy and leaves that to Sandy too to help care for the elderly horses. She states in her will that her dogs should be put down to “save them from falling into the hands of a Puppy mill breeder”
Cindy dies a few months later and all other property goes to her sisters and father as in the above example. Father grumbles about the money going for the horses; upkeep, but Cindy has wisely added a clause saying anyone that contests the will shall not inherit under it. Sally, however, does not want the poor puppies to be put to sleep.
Sally complains about this to her friend Lee who tells her to go to court and have a judge over-rule that part of the will. Sally doubts this is possible, but she is not willing to lose her share of the estate by trying to save the dogs. Lee, however, has no such limitations. Lee decides eh is going to try and help save the dogs.
Lee googles “put+animals+down+death+will” and in less time then it took to write that she is looking at an Animal Law website that cites cases in several states where judges overturned such provisions. Just 10 years ago this information might have remained buried in dusty law books where no person could find them, but today its right there and doesn’t even require a lawyer to find it.
Lee files her motion with the Probate judge and he hands the research over to his clerk. He has never had a question like this in his court, but he figures somebody somewhere has had to decide a similar case before. If not, he knows the common law rule that once you are dead you do not have much control over your personal property. You left it to someone else and they own it now. Public policy neither supports putting animals down needlessly or destroying valuable property for no reason.
The clerk, of course, does just what Lee did. She googles and checks Westlaw for cases like Cindy’s. The clerk finds the same cases, writes a memo to the judge and the judge rules for Lee. His rationale is that clearly Cindy worried that her dogs would end up with a Puppy Mill breeder, but since Lee has come forward and offered an excellent home Cindy’s fears are no longer justified. He awards the dogs to the custody of Lee, a total stranger to Cindy.
Lee keeps the dogs for a year but she works full time and just didn’t realize how much care 4 dogs required. At the end of the year she decides she can no longer care for them and a very nice man offers to adopt them all and give them a wonderful lifetime forever home. His name is Peter Puppymill.
Lee realizes a few months later that she has given the dogs to a bad home. Unfortunately, there is nothing she can do about it. There is nothing anyone can do about it. Only the dogs have an interest and dogs can’t petition a court. Cindy’s worst fear has come true and no amount of good lawyering can fix it. Sally makes an offer to Peter to buy the dogs at twice market price. He accepts. This is unlikely to really happen but I don’t want all you readers to get depressed.
Cindy’s horses and cash and life insurance policy go to her BFF Sandy. Sandy immediately loads up the horses in a trailer and sells them at auction for $650 each. She does not believe in keeping horses that nobody can ride and thinks the money is better spent saving younger useful horses she can ride and train and sell. She tells herself Cindy would have wanted it that way.
She forgets all about her promises to Cindy and buys a new truck while she is at it. Cindy’s father goes to Cindy’s lawyer and demands he stop the travesty. The lawyer says there is nothing he can do. The bequest could only rely on the good faith and good intentions of the person named in the will. If they turn out to be less then trustworthy, then no court can enforce the terms to protect the horses. He id the best he could, but Cindy had to pick someone she could trust even after she died. She picked wrong.
But Lee saved the dogs father yells at lawyer! Surely the judge will save the horses too? Sorry, says lawyer, that is not the case. Sandy has done nothing illegal or against public policy. She signed no contracts and Cindy trusted her. I wrote the very best will I could to protect Cindy’s animals. But until the write a law that is enforceable in a court I can only do what I can do. Cindy’s father leaves heavy hearted knowing that even though he always thought the horses; were a burden at least he would have respected her wishes.
Is everyone nice and worried and depressed yet???? Well, don’t worry anymore. There is a way to fix all these problems because somebody, somewhere actually did the work and made that law the lawyer lamented for a reality. I wasn’t me, but A big thank you to whomever went out there and lobbied more then half the states to incorporate Honorary Trusts for Animals into their probate codes!!!
Next post I will tell you all about these trust sand even how you can sue then if they are not yet in your State’s code. Is my e-mail address starting to make sense now?:> HonorLaw is not just because I try and act honorably, Its not just because I went to Washington and Lee Law School where Honor is drilled into our education. Its also because I want every pet owner in the US to know about honorary trusts for animals. They are new and your lawyer may not know about them yet.