These two happy words come from my wife. They were quickly followed by "I am getting tired of reading every Friday about financial planning, financial services, retirement, wills, asset allocation, and the like. I need something different. Can't you write about something else for a change?"
"I could but my specialties are what you just said. You want me to forget about 45 years of experience? Got a suggestion?"
"Sure, what about animals? You love animals. Write about them."
Okay, She Who Must Be Obeyed (courtesy of Rumpole of the Bailey) gets the following:
Many people who support animal rights and their welfare during their lifetimes want to continue that support after their own deaths. They do that through wills (uh, uh, another verboten subject). In any event, consider this rather intriguing tale
There was this wealthy man in California who wanted to benefit animals so he had a will drawn up and in it, sought to dispose of some $50 million. Needless to say, an attorney familiar with animal rights did not draw the will, so where did the millions go? The SPCA. You got that right. The SPCA. But, which one? The one in the testator's county? There wasn't any.
As you probably know, there are thousands of SPCAs scattered around the globe. The battle was joined and a California judge decided to give not only any SPCA that wanted money an opportunity to receive it but he opened up the claims to virtually every animal rights organization in the country.
You obviously know what happened.
After prolonged proceedings and the payment of substantial legal fees to many of the lawyers representing various organizations that asserted claims, an allocation of the deceased's millions was finally made. But obviously not by him. It was done by some judge who never knew the deceased and who had to guess at what he really wanted to do with his dollars. Hey, we're talking $50 million here.
So, for the financial guru out there (and I knew we would get back to that topic), here are some points to keep in mind:
1) The donor must know exactly what is to be accomplished and that must be spelled out in a precise document.
2) In order to crystallize the donor's wishes, and certainly to embody them in either a trust instrument or a last will and testament, it is indispensable that competent, knowledgeable counsel be retained.
3) Any attorney chosen to advise and represent the donor cannot be personally interested in the gift or have any other conflict of interest, whether actual or potential.
4) The requirement that the donor's representative be conflict-free applies to the donor's fiduciaries, as well.
5) Once the donor knows what is wanted and the necessary documents have been drawn, then it is essential to inform both fiduciaries and beneficiaries.
6) The donor must insist that fiduciaries make at least the minimum effort to learn about the subject of animal rights and their welfare.
The Institute for Animal Rights Law says that given the plight of animals today, "It is nothing less than a tragedy that, when a donor wants to make material resources available to help them, those resources are squandered or stolen, especially when it is so easy to prevent the thwarting of the donor's intention."
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