Gladys Cavanagh of Victoria, BC took ‘paying it forward’ very seriously. She has bequeathed 2.5 million dollars to the Victoria SPCA, a substantial chunk of her inheritance from a stroke victim that she befriended. That was just her way, adopting strangers and helping animals. She worked hard and had a level of compassion that is an inspiration to us all.
Having no close living relatives, her gift should be presented without a hitch. If you’re planning to leave some funds to an animal/pet charity, however, there are things you should know.
Informing relatives of your wishes isn’t enough. Money changes people and it only takes one person to object. They may convince themselves that you didn’t really mean it, or even that you weren’t in your right mind. They may also resent the gesture and take it as a personal snub.
To protect your wishes and your legacy:
- Make sure the animal/pet charity is registered and there are no documented complaints or concerns about it.
- A rock-solid will is the most effective way of getting your money to the charity of your choice. Hire a lawyer.
- Do it sooner rather than later, when you’re ‘of sound mind and body’. A medical certification attesting to that fact is also helpful.
- If you decide to leave someone out of your will that the courts may later decide should be included, leave a letter explaining your actions.
- Specify how you wish to have the funds used by the animal/pet charity, or if you want to leave that to the recipient’s discretion.
Your gift may still be contested, but it will be difficult to overrule if you have your ducks lined up in a row.
Legalities vary according to country, but you should have three choices as to how you would like the money to be given to the charity:
Pecuniary legacy – A fixed amount of money paid in a lump sum.
Specific legacy – An item that you own, such as a house.
Residuary legacy – All or a percentage of what is left of your estate after expenses.
Many charities include bequest information on their website, usually under ‘How you can help’ or a similar title.
Leaving money to an animal/pet charity can be a comforting way to leave the world and as they say, you can’t take it with you.
A peaceful rest to you, Gladys, you’ve left this world a better place.
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