Today while searching through some news articles I came across one that is somewhat local to me.
As you will see in the article, there was a man running a rather successful Serpentarium in Welland, Ontario. Sadly he suffered a fatal stroke in May of 2011 and having no legal will, his reptiles and possessions are all under the care of his Estate.
He was in possession of almost 200 reptiles including several crocodiles, and many venemous and non-venemous snakes. His collection was quite impressive, but their fate is still undecided.
His common-law wife is unable to continue running his business and is going into great debt caring for the reptiles. The local animal control authorities have stepped in and although they are still on the previous owners property, they can not be disposed of without the Estate Trustees permission.
The woman in question managed to find another reptile centre willing to take charge of the animals, but the authorities are not allowing it as the lawyer for the Estate has “other” plans.
Personally I think that the authorities are making a further mess of an unfortunate situation. They are leaving the costs of caring for the creatures to the common-law wife, but denying her the ability to find new homes to properly care for them. I think that the solution she found is probably a good one, since the other centre is well established and quite experienced.
Another person might have put the animals (which include several endangered crocodiles) up on Ebay or Craigslist, and sold them to inexperienced owners, or collectors more interested in the animals skin and not their proper care.
Or they could have just been dumped in the woods somewhere. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time.
What she did was find a decent home that would be able to care for the reptiles, but instead she is forced to wait an undetermined amount of time, while sinking further and further into debt while bureaucrats decide what is best.
Honestly, what do they plan to do with 200 reptiles? The deceased has a brother living in Europe and I doubt that he will want to accept the cost of importing 200 animals to Prague, and their future care.
In this case I think that an exception should be made to laws dealing with a persons Estate. The deceased lived with his common law partner for decades, so why shouldn’t she be treated as any other wife, and be allowed to decide the fate of her Husbands animals? And why must the animals suffer in limbo while a government agency tries to decide what to do with them?
When my own father died, we ran into similar problem. My parents were only common law, and despite the fact they had been together for more than 20 years, my Mother was still not allowed to direct the disposition of my fathers estate. I am his only biological child, so at 19 years old I was given the title of Executor of my fathers estate.
It became increasingly complicated since my father was the sole Broker in a Real Estate firm. Once his death was reported, the business was frozen since his partners were only Agents. At 19, I had to take over the responsibility of the business until the partners were able to find another Broker to join them. Granted my only responsibility was to sign cheques, but the whole thing would have made much more sense if my Mother (who had experience as a Real Estate Broker) had been allowed to take on the responsibility.
So why should the lack of one little piece of paper, overrule a 20 year relationship, and business experience as well? Why did I have to have that responsibility, that I truly didn’t understand and very easily could have been taken advantage of?
Why when a person is already suffering a great loss, do they have to deal with red tape and lawyers telling them what they can and can’t do with something that they have been dealing with for years, and the lawyer doesn’t understand?
I know we have laws in place in case there is an argument or a conflict over an Estate, but in the case of these snakes, I think the only conflict is the lawyers doing.