Doris Day CharityDoris Day died last year at the age of 97. As many people know, Ms. Day was passionate about animals. In her later years, she would often rescue dogs and they would live with her in her Carmel Valley house. According to a recent article, “She loved dogs so much she prepared their food in a dedicated dog kitchen with tiny dog beds draped in Ralph Lauren sheets.” She was not alone in her love of animals and many of my clients have set up pet trusts or have otherwise left instructions in their wills for their pets. In the case of Ms. Day, she has used her love of animals and a charitable foundation to leave a legacy that benefits the animals.

Doris Day’s Home

Last week, the Wall Street Journal had an article about Ms. Day’s house being put up for sale (Doris Day’s Home Goes to the Dogs). The property is nearly 9 acres and was listed at $7.4 million. What caught my eye was that the proceeds are going to the Doris Day Animal Foundation. According to the article, the foundation “is supporting animal rescue efforts amid the California wildfires.”

As with other celebrities, it’s good to see that Doris Day leaving behind a charitable legacy. In February, we learned about Kirk Douglas and his charitable legacies, which included a variety of organizations like

  • Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
  • The Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center
  • A St. Lawrence University scholarship for underprivileged students
  • Westwood’s Sinai Temple
  • Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theater

What Can You Do?

Many of my clients do not have millions of dollars and do not run their own charitable foundations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t leave a legacy for your pets or for animals in general. Some common tools you can consider are a pet trust for your animals to provide for their care after you’re gone. Others leave specific bequests (gifts) to animal organizations and charities in their will. Some who may not have any other living family who could inherit, leave their assets to charities that benefit animals.

In the end, it’s your estate plan and you can decide what happens after you’re gone. If you’d like to make sure that an animal charity or organization receives a gift, talk to your lawyer about making sure it finds its way into your estate plan documents. I recently reviewed a will that was drafted online (but thankfully not signed by the client) that had language that the client had desires to donate to their local animal shelter, but the gift was never actually formalized by the will and would not have been legally enforced if the client died with that will as their estate plan document.

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Next Steps

Doris Day’s charitable legacy is a good example of the benefits of a well-designed estate plan. You don’t have to have millions of dollars to create one! If you don’t have a will yet, or if you have one that you may need to update, call my office to set up a Legal Strategy Session and we can review the best options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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