LOVING YOUR ANIMALS TO DEATH?

July 7, 2010 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, Pets Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

My blog posts this week have been inspired by a Globe and Mail article that a summer student handed to me about the late Gail Posner’s trust provisions for her dogs, Conchita, April Maria and Lucia.

In yesterday’s blog I noted that while Wills are an opportunity for individuals to provide for their loved ones, there is no guarantee that our stated wishes for our beloved companion animals will be sacrosanct. For example, the late Leona Helmsley’s $12-million trust for her dog Trouble was reduced to $2-million by a Manhattan Judge on the ground that the deceased lacked capacity with regard to her Will and the Trust Agreement.

In the Globe and Mail article that inspired my posts this week, Barry Seltzer noted that Canadian legislatures may wish to consider “ante-mortem” probate as a way to ensure capacity does not become an issue in these cases. Ante-mortem probate is a technique used in certain states, including Arkansas, North Dakota, and Ohio, to validate a will while the person is still alive so that it cannot be contested once the person passes away.

In some cases, the wishes of a testator regarding his pets are contrary to public policy and, thus, are held to be void. For example, some pet owners have included clauses in their wills directing that their pets be euthanized upon their death (perhaps because they feel that their animals will be distraught without them). 

In one such case a testator (Mr. Clive Wishart) directed that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) shoot four of his horses. The RCMP refused and the matter was brought to a New Brunswick Court where it was held that the direction to shoot “four healthy animals” was contrary to public policy because doing so would serve “no useful purpose” and “would be a waste of resources and estate assets even if carried out humanely.” 

For those of you interested in reviewing the case, the citation is: Wishart Estate (Re), [1992] N.B.J. No. 547.

Thank you for reading!

Kathryn Pilkington – Click here for more information on Kathryn Pilkington.

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