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How failing to update a will nearly cost a cat its life

Once an estate plan is created in Texas and elsewhere, often people forget about making changes to it as their lives change. Estate planning documents can quickly become outdated if a person does not act to make changes for life situations such as marriage, asset acquisition or a change of heart as to certain directives in an estate plan. This can cause confusion or upset for some beneficiaries after a person dies.

When a person creates estate planning documents such as a will and then does not look at it for 20-plus years, it may not adequately reflect his or her current wishes. Such may have been the case recently when an elderly lady passed away. In her will, the lady had directed that any animal owned by her at the time of her death should be euthanized. However, the woman’s will was created in 1988 and hadn’t been changed since.

At the time of her passing, the woman owned an 11-year-old cat. The cat had been well cared for by both the lady and her neighbors up until the woman’s death. Additionally, the woman had spent much of her life supporting animal-related causes. She was a regular donor to animal charities and had included bequests to many in her estate planning documents.

Because of this evidence, the trustee of her estate balked at the idea of putting the cat to death. Feeling that the lady’s wishes may have changed over the course of her life, the trustee asked the court to allow the cat to live. The court heard testimony, reviewed all of the evidence and decided to overrule the will and allow the cat to be placed in a new home.

Because changes were not made to reflect the lady’s new decision regarding her animals, it was necessary for the trustee to petition the court to save the cat. Although this turned out to be good news for the cat in this instance, often the court must act as directed by the will. Those in Texas may do well to be mindful of their evolving desires as they create and maintain estate planning documents.

Source: Petside, “Saving a Senior Pet: The Story of Boots,” Charlotte Reed, April 16, 2012