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Ella Mason Was the Reasonable One

ukf884xxWhen she died in 2003, a Maine woman left almost of all of her $200,000 estate for the care of the unwanted and abandoned cats in her hometown.  Her two page will appointed trustees to administer the funds but did not specify who should actually receive the funds.  Now, two women who run makes shift cat shelters have sued the trustees and the attorney who drafted the will.

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This Is Not Springfield, It Is L.A.

splash-samsimoncharity-600x375Sam Simon was renowned as the co-creator of “The Simpsons.”  When he died earlier this year, he left an estate worth at least $100 million, most of which he left to charity.  He left the care of his rescue dog, a Cane Corso (think a pit bull on steroids, dating from Roman times) to the dog’s trainer.  Alas, he did not leave any funds to the trainer for the care of the dog which requires twice a week acupuncture at $3,600 per month, gluten free regionally sourced food for $185 month, and $150 grooming every three weeks.  The trainer also requested his $7,500 monthly fee to work with the dog to keep it from “changing your life in an instant (i.e. mauling)”  even though the trainer now owned the dog.  The trainer is upset that the trustee will not provide him the funds he has requested to care for the dog.

Several points:

1.   Trusts to provide for the care of pets after the death of an owner are permissible under Ohio law.

2.  If Mr. Simon’s trust did not specifically provide for the care of the dog after his death, the Trustee is not permitted to distribute funds to the new owner of the dog.

3.  When leaving someone one’s pet, one should also leave a sum of money to care for the animal. I always address this issue with my clients, lest they impose a financial burden on their friends.

4.  Mr. Simon could have made a huge difference in many human lives with the $140K he was spending annually on a dog prone to attacking anyone who walked onto his property, although attacking Howard Stern is understandable.

5.  Gluten free, regionally sourced food for dogs?  L.A. deserves our scorn and mockery.

 

 

 

 

Cuckoo Estate Planning

birdswill (1)A Manhattan millionaire left $100K to a pet trust for her 32 cockatiels.  She requested that the birds continue to live in the aviary in her $4 million East Hampton property; that they be fed Avi-Cakes (which cost $115 for a 20 lb bag), carrots, water, and popcorn; and that the building be cleaned each Monday and Thursday.  She was far less meticulous with the rest of $5.3 million estate which she initially left to her step-son in a 2006 will.  She later tried to revise that will by crossing out his name and writing in the name of her sister who is now claiming the remaining $5.2 million.  

Several points, some of them previously made:

1.  Certainly this woman missed the forest for the trees – she focused on a picayune aspect of her estate while ignoring the proper disposition of the bulk of her estate.

2.  Handwritten changes on a validly executed will are ineffective and will likely lead to her step-son inheriting the $5.2 million (at least under Ohio law)

3.  As mentioned previously, I retain the original documents for my clients to preempt this type of attempted change/spoliation of wills.

4.  This type of myopic focus on pets while ignoring one’s relatives is more commonly seen in cat owners rather than bird owners.   

 

 

All Dogs Go to Heaven

The will of a Cincinnati area woman is in the national news because it provides that her nine year old German Shepherd mix was to be destroyed and its ashes mixed with hers if a friend did not take the dog or the dog did not go to an Utah shelter for orphaned animals.   The friend has declined to care for the aggressive dog who needs muzzling around strangers and the Utah shelter costs $40,000.  Animal lovers are horrified about the likely euthanization of the dog and are pillorying the deceased woman in the media.

Several points:

1.  Ohio law allows pet trusts.  An individual is designated to take care of the animal(s) and someone else manages the funds for the care of the animal.  I have drafted quite a few of these in the past 2 years.

2.  With the thousands of animals killed daily in shelters, I think the critics’ ire is misdirected when trying to save an elderly Cujo.

3.  If the legal proceedings last very long, the dog will reach its life expectancy (10 years for German Shepherds) and die of natural causes.  Time is a friend of people and the dog.

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All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.