Pets are considered a part of the estate.
Last month's post on a friend's Herculean efforts to care for her brother and his inheritance evoked memories and anecdotes from you about ordinary folks, like you and me, failing to plan.
Older women who disinherit their children and entrust their worldly belongings to younger males who have mysteriously appeared in their life appear to be more than urban legends. There are numerous stories about people who did not plan at all and ended up with a shambles and fighting adult children.
Then there are the instances of the wealthy and famous who, even with the assistance of lawyers, failed to get it right. Because chewing gum magnate William Wrigley did not receive sufficient estate-planning guidance, the Wrigley family had to sell the Chicago Cubs franchise to pay taxes.
Half-brothers Audrey Hepburn's two sons fought for years over their inheritance of personal mementos from their mother's film career. The legendary actress did not specify who got what when she left the artifacts in equal amounts to her kids. The brothers had been unable to agree on a fair distribution of their inheritance for more than 20 years and had to resort to mediation. According to certain legal documents, their mother might have avoided the whole argument by ordering quick mediation if they couldn't agree, or she could have demanded that the memorabilia be sold and the proceeds split evenly if they couldn't agree.
My acquaintance, about whom I wrote last month, has reminded me of yet another critical aspect of estate preparation. The following is what she had to say about Zee, her brother's dog, in her own words.
In addition to my brother, I was responsible for another member of his family: his love of his life, a gigantic black dog that usually wore a red bandana to avoid being mistaken for a bear.
We initially assumed the dog could accompany us home, but we discovered that the dog was accustomed to travelling in an open truck and was happiest strolling on grass or dirt, a true mountain dog whose greatest companions were deer or bears. This large, sweet dog was housebroken, would lock himself in his cage if it rained, and would bark at my brother when asked, Do you love me?
My acquaintance had two carers look after the dog at her brother's cottage for around six months. Then she realized that her brother was unlikely to return from the nursing home, and that the dog needed a new home.
She penned a letter from the dog and requested that it be delivered to the local animal shelter. I had the impression that the letter came straight from the dog's heart, explaining her past, present, and hopeful future.
Take pleasure in the letter (shortened slightly). Hello. My name is Zee, and I'd like to introduce myself. I'm a black (friendly) German shepherd who spent the first eight and a half years of my life in a mountain hut with my much-loved master, whom he refers to as "his lover." I always wear a bright scarf to avoid being mistaken for a little bear. I'm in excellent health and have received all of my vaccinations.
I've been staying at the cabin for the past six months, being looked after by compassionate neighbors while my owner is in a skilled nursing facility. He doesn't look likely to be able to return. It makes me sad to have to look for a new place to live. I don't have any negative habits, however I do shed a lot. I adore going for rides in the truck with my owner and exploring the highlands. I'm currently mostly inside, but when I want to go, I'll go to the door and let you know. While you sleep, I'll lie beside your chair or in your bed.
I've never been around other dogs; I've only seen a lot of deer. I'm your dog if you're searching for a good girl who is housebroken and won't cause any issue as long as she's fed, hydrated, and loved.
Did I mention that I like living in the country because I've never lived in a city? Adjustments can be difficult, but I'm confident that with your patience and my willingness, we'll be able to find happiness together.
The letter was shared on Facebook by someone at the shelter. It resulted in around a dozen phone calls and a slew of Facebook requests.
My friend and her husband whittled down the requests to two, then drove 14 hours to meet with the new possible owners, bringing Zee along for the ride.
The second individual I spoke with owned a dog. My companion viewed the man's house, Zee's sleeping quarters, and the roughly 25 acres of partly wooded land where Zee could roam. My friend and her husband stood there watching the two dogs' delayed but promising reaction. They reluctantly left Zee there with her huge bed and toys. The new owner keeps in touch with pictures and updates every month.
What an ordeal it has been for my friend to care for her brother and his dog, then settle her brother's estate. Being a caretaker and settling an estate are both likely to be exciting experiences. Some people, such as my acquaintance, excel at both occupations.