Simpson’s Creator’s Estate Plan May be Vague About Care For His Own Dog
We’ve written in the past about the importance of planning for pets when considering an estate plan. It turns out that even those with huge assets often forget to consider animals, or else, have estate plans that are vague or confusing about how they want their animals to be cared for. What appears to be an omission by a famous personality is a lesson to us all in proper estate planning.
Simpsons’ Creator Was an Animal Lover
Earlier this year, the Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon died of cancer. A millionaire, Simon loved animals; he even had his own animal foundation for rescued dogs, and was a huge supporter of PETA. He bought zoos and even circuses so he could free the animals.
Simon also had his own personal animals. One was a large, 125-pound dog with some aggression issues. Simon knew the dog would need special care and attention after he was gone—in fact, the dog’s expenses added up to $140,000 per year.
Estate Dispute Over Simon’s Dog
Simon did have an estate plan, but it doesn’t appear as if it accounted for the dog’s care. The dog’s new owner contends that the trusts set up by Simon aren’t providing for the dog, and that Simon, before his death, told the new owner that he would have all the dog’s expenses covered. And it’s clear based on Simon’s love of animals, and his own dog, that he couldn’t have purposely omitted the dog from his estate plan.
The trust contends that the dog’s new owner is asking for significantly more than what is needed to care for the dog, including monthly acupuncture, which is totaling more than $3,000 per month. The trust says that it has made reasonable payments, and that there were others who could have taken the dog at a cost that was free to the trust—including a backup owner that Simon named. They accuse the owner of trying to take advantage of the trust.
Problems Could Have Been Avoided
It’s hard to know who is right and who is wrong. But one thing is certain—more specificity in Simon’s estate planning documents likely would have avoided any confusion. It doesn’t matter what he wanted to leave for the care of his dog, as long as that request was clearly set forth in his estate planning documents.
The situation also is a reminder of how important it is to remember that when leaving amounts to pets, safeguards do need to be in place to ensure that money left to a pet’s care is used for this exact purpose. This is why a trustee who is charged with administering a trust according to the directives is often different than the person left to care for a pet. Separating the two can be a safeguard to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.
Don’t overlook anything in your estate plan. Make sure it does what you intend it to do for you. Contact Tampa business and probate attorney David Toback to discuss your needs and make sure you understand how to best plan all areas of your estate.