If you have been (binge) watching “Tiger King” like us, a new Netflix documentary series, you are no doubt aware of the allegation that Carole Baskin (the operator of Big Cat Rescue in Florida) murdered her first husband, Don Lewis, and fed him to her tigers. Joe Exotic, the now-imprisoned “Tiger King” himself, theorizes that she did this to gain control of his substantial assets and take over their shared tiger sanctuary. Not exactly a credible source, but an interesting theory nonetheless.
One (of several) estate planning issues that arose in this documentary was the suggestion that Carole Baskin surreptitiously destroyed the sole copy of her missing husband’s updated last will and testament, a version that is suspected to have disinherited Carole Baskin in light of an impending marital separation. Around the same time, Don Lewis attempted to file a restraining order against Carole Baskin, which seems to support the suggestion that his testamentary intentions had changed. Conveniently, in the absence of Don Lewis’ true last will, Carole Baskin was able to rely on an earlier will wherein she received the entirety of Don Lewis’ estate. Some estimates value the estate in the range of $20 million, although Carole Baskin herself asserts that it was no more than $5 million (https://bigcatrescue.org/refuting-netflix-tiger-king/).
A simple lesson to be learned from this is to ensure that you register your last will with the Vital Statistics Agency and to ensure that multiple copies of your up-to-date estate planning documents are stored in a safe place (e.g., with your lawyer, in a safety deposit box, etc.). You need to make sure your true last intentions can be located once you are gone. Also, if you have a relationship with a cat person, you may want to get some estate planning advice in general.