Make sure to have a strategy in place for your pets
When my grandmother’s cousin passed away several years ago, our small surviving family made the drive to Durango to attend her memorial service.
As we joined many of her friends and colleagues in the celebration of life ceremony, there were ample whispers amongst the crowd as to what was to become of her estate.
Nancy was a self-made millionaire, having invested in many real estate transactions during her life. She was divorced and her only child had died of cancer when he was only 20 years old.
While she had been an active entrepreneur most of her life, for several years preceeding her death, she had become somewhat of a recluse.
She had purchased a remote property east of Durango and spent most days in the large house with her five cats. Her health was frail, having been diagnosed with emphysema. A bottle of oxygen was her constant companion.
Nancy adored her cats, they were her motivation to endure another day. Her feline companions were all seniors themselves, except for a young cat she rescued a few years earlier.
As we congregated at a nearby restaurant after the funeral service, the family discussed options for homes for the cats. Unbeknownst to us, Nancy had already provided for her faithful feline companions. When the contents of her will were disclosed the following day, my grandmother relayed the astonishing news.
Nancy had meticulously detailed the outcome of her estate. All of her real estate assets except for the house were to be sold and all monies were to be placed in a trust. A caretaker was to be hired to move to the secluded property to care for the cats until they died.
After the cats joined Nancy on the other side, the house was to be sold and all of her assets were to be donated to a cat sanctuary in California.
Needless to say, the family was quite surprised. Nancy had taken several trips to the cat sanctuary prior to her illness and had donated money to the non-profit for many years. She had expressed many times how impressed she was with the no-kill shelter, and this knowledge helped us rationalize her desire to bequeath her estate.
I would have loved to have been there when the cat sanctuary opened that letter. I imagine it helped them greatly in their endeavors.
Non-profit animal shelters rely entirely on community donations, volunteer involvement and grants to provide care to homeless animals. Compassionately, they provide an invaluable service to communities as they care for displaced pets.
Undoubtedly, Nancy had spent a great deal of time formulating her last wishes, planning each detail. Most folks don’t go to the eccentricity that Nancy did in the event their death precede their pets’. However, I must admit, her meticulous forecasting eased the burden of the family’s obligation to care for the cats.
As responsible caretakers of precious pets, having a strategy in place in the event of an unforeseen occurrence is beneficial to both your family and animals. Too often, family or friends who are unable to care for surviving pets will relinquish the animals to a shelter.
Preparing for this situation in advance will ensure your pets will receive the care they require and deserve.
For those contemplating donating some or all of their estate to an animal shelter, due diligence in researching the credibility of the organization is paramount. While some rescues and shelters have good intentions, contributing to a reputable 501(c)(3) organization is advised.
Discuss your intentions with family and consult with a lawyer and/or a financial adviser to execute your wishes in writing.