Editorial: Where there’s a will, there’s a way

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1993:

Quite a number of items in this issue have to do with provisions for life after one’s
own death, and not in the spiritual sense. Though we die, our animal companions and
organizations may live on, not necessarily as we’d have chosen. One of our major investiga-
tions this month involved conflicting interpretations of an ambiguous will that eventually
resulted in a protracted legal battle, during which the lawyers for the opposing sides may
have gotten more of the bequest than the cause it was intended to aid. A page of features
describes contrasting arrangements the North Shore Animal League and Texas A&M
University offer for the orphaned cats and dogs of deceased humans––alternatives costing
nothing but perhaps a small donation on the one hand, and $25,000 on the other. An obitu-
ary notes the death of a lady who left a fortune to her local humane society. If space
allowed, a longer item could further describe the two-month search for her will. But for
luck, her intended bequest might never have been delivered.

A couple of years ago Helen Jones, Henry Mark Holtzer, and Erika Holtzer out-
lined a number of other cases that should have caused anyone planning to leave money to
animals, his or her own or in general, to re-examine his or her will and rewrite to eliminate
any ambiguities, preferably with the help of a legal adviser who specializes in wills. In the
most memorable instance, an attorney unfamiliar with the language required to establish a
charitable foundation inadvertantly included language that allowed state-appointed trustees
to redirect millions of dollars away from animal work and into other philanthropic activities.
Even if your will does exactly what you want it to do now, and even if your execu-
tor knows where to find it, you should still reviewed it at regular intervals. One’s depen-
dents and heirs change, one’s property changes, one’s companion animals change, and the
organizations one wishes to support change. Chances are, if your will is more than a few
years old, it needs revising and updating. If it’s more than five years old, it almost certainly
Finally, and with the hope that none of our friends and supporters are ever to die,
ANIMAL PEOPLE would appreciate your remembrance. We’ll gratefully make good use
of anything from a rent-free headquarters to a small memorial contribution.
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