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Tiger King #2: Enduring Powers of Attorney (a cautionary tale)

Enduring powers of attorney are an important planning tool and are essential to ensuring that one's affairs are properly managed in the event you become incapable. However, you need to be very careful when granting such wide ranging authority to another person, since you may end up at their mercy. This may have been the case in the recent documentary series "Tiger King", wherein Carole Baskin (the operator of Big Cat Rescue in Florida) ended up in possession of a power of attorney over her first husband, Don Lewis. The documentary series explores allegations that Carole Baskin murdered Don Lewis (then fed him to her tigers, perhaps after covering him in sardine oil to make his dismembered corpse more appetizing) and then utilized her power of attorney to assert control over his assets and estate in his absence.

Contrary to the allegations in the documentary, Carole Baskin denies any involvement in Don Lewis' disappearance and maintains that he fled to Costa Rica albeit without any of his money. Curiously, Don Lewis' power of attorney in favour of Carole Baskin includes an unusual clause, expressly empowering Carole Baskin to utilize the power of attorney in circumstances where he had "disappeared". Normally, a power of attorney becomes void upon a person's death (this happens automatically in British Columbia pursuant to s. 30(4)(b) of the Power of Attorney Act), but this "disappearance" clause may have allowed Carole Baskin to continue controlling Don Lewis' estate during the 5-year period between his disappearance and the declaration of his death. Dead or alive in hiding, it seems unlikely that this is what Don Lewis would have wanted.

This situation highlights the importance of receiving independent legal advice prior to executing powers of attorney and other estate planning documents. You need to ensure that you power of attorney has been properly drafted and accurately reflects the intended delegation of power. Obviously, you should also only grant powers of attorney to people you trust (not to feed you to their cats).

See Tiger King: An estate planning nightmare/mt-bin/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&id=3918196&blog_id=76965

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