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Tag: wills

What trash should we cash?

seussWhen an author pens some words

Then decides to abort ’em

Is it right to dig them up

And publish them post mortem?

When an artist abandons or otherwise trashes a work in progress — be that artist a musician, painter or writer — it’s usually for good reasons

When an heir, agent or publisher digs up the discarded work of a dead or incapacitated artist it, and seeks to package it for public consumption, it’s usually for one:

Profit.

That — more than paying homage, more than fleshing out the historical record — is what’ I’d guess is behind the publication of “new” books by two of America’s most beloved authors.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman — essentially the trashed first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird — was released this summer, even though some say, given Ms. Lee’s mental state, she isn’t likely to have endorsed the project.

What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), hit bookstores today — 24 years after his death.

Fifty years after Seuss and Lee became part of popular culture, their respective publishing houses are saying, in effect — and like an infomercial — “But wait … There’s more.”

The new Seuss book is based materials found in the author’s San Diego home in 2013 by Geisel’s widow, Audrey.

According to Random House, when Audrey Geisel was remodeling her home after his death, she found a box filled with pages of text and sketches and set it aside with some of her husband’s other materials. Twenty-two years later, she and Seuss’s secretary revisited the box.

They found the full text and sketches for What Pet Should I Get? — a project that, seemingly, Seuss didn’t feel good enough about to pursue.

As reincarnated books go, Go Set a Watchman has proven far more contentious.

On top of questions over whether Lee wanted the work published, it’s first-version portrayal of Atticus Finch as a bigot is hard for some readers to take, especially those who read Mockingbird.

What Pet Should I Get? hasn’t entirely escaped controversy.

The story line is simple:  A brother and sister (the same ones featured in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) go to the pet store with permission from their parents to pick out a pet.

The can’t seem to agree. The brother wants a dog, the sister wants a cat, and some consideration is given to a “Yent that could live in a tent.”

Some reviews are saying the rhymes lack the pzazz and zaniness of Geisel’s better known works.

In addition, the book doesn’t stand up to the test of time. It was written in a day that buying a dog from a store was deemed acceptable — decades before the atrocities of puppy mills (where many such dogs came from) became known.

Among the book’s earliest critics — even before it came out — was PETA, whose president contacted Random House to point out it might send the wrong message to young readers. Apparently, Random House took the advice to heart. In an eight-page afterword, the publisher makes a point of explaining, among other things, that families should adopt rather than buying dogs and cats from stores.

What’s not addressed are the ethics of profiting off selling the unpublished works of the dead.

In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, let me conclude with a couple of modest thoughts. You can call them little point one and little point two.

Point one is a note to creative types. You might want to consider outlining in your will, in great detail, what may or may not happen to, and who should get any profits from, any unpublished works that you squirreled away in a drawer rather than burned or threw away.

Point two is that, in celebrating our beloved writers, particularly two who shaped the lives, hearts and brains of so many children and young adults, remembering their wishes should be paramount.

The publishing world is something of a zoo, and it’s not above shoveling out some stinky stuff wrapped in shiny new packages.

So be careful of that wily fox

He’s smarter than a lot of us

Watch out for tigers, snakes and bears

Beware the hippo-posthumous

 

American dog population rises to 77.5 million

Americans are increasingly making provisions for their pets in their will, placing their pet’s medical needs over their own, and planning vacations around their pet — all signs that pets, more than ever, are considered part of the family, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

The APPA has released its 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, and it shows pet ownership at its highest level ever, with 71.4 million households in the U.S. owning at least one pet — 62 percent of all households.

Furthermore, during the past decade the current number of pet-owning households increased by 12 percent, up from 61.2 million pet-owning households in 1998.

According to the survey, there are 77.5 million dogs, 93.6 million cats, 171.7 million freshwater fish, 11.2 million saltwater fish, 15 million birds, 15.9 million small animals, 13.63 million reptiles and 13.3 million horses owned in the U.S.

“The findings in the survey clearly demonstrate the importance of the role our pets are playing in our every day lives. Two decades of trended data show that now more than ever people consider pets an important part of the family and are still providing for their faithful companions even in these trying times,” said Bob Vetere, president of APPA.

“As pet ownership continues to rise, so has the demand for quality products and services. This has led to an amazing evolution of innovative products and services that truly enhance the experience of owning a pet,” he added.

Since the inception of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey in 1988, dogs and cats have accounted for more than two-thirds of all households that own a pet. The actual number of pet owning households is significantly higher than it was twenty years ago, as is the overall number of U.S. households.

The survey showed 17 percent of dog owners have an electronic tracking device implanted in their dog, with the Western region having significantly more tracking devices than dogs in other regions.

The survey found dog visits to the veterinarian are up, averaging 2.8 visits a year. Thirteen percent of dogs and 21 percent of cats are considered obese or overweight by their veterinarian. When asked to indicate their priority if there was a choice between a large medical expense for themselves or their pet, 15 percent of dog owners would attend to their dog’s need before their own.

Seven percent  of dog, cat, bird and horse owners indicated they had made financial provisions for their pet in their will. One-third of dog, cat and bird owners and almost half of equine owners have named a caretaker or guardian for their pet in their will.

More than 20 percent of vacationing dog owners take their pet with them in the car when they travel. These owners take their dog on an average of five car trips per year. Three percent of dog owners take their dog to work at least more than once a month.

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Maryland considers law permitting pet trusts

Maybe you’re no Leona Helmsley, and have no plans to leave your dog $12 million to assure he continue living in the luxurious manner to which he has become accustomed. 

Maybe you’re no Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress who, in addition to bequeathing large amounts to animal organizations in her will, left $100,000 in a trust for the care and feeding of her dog.

Maybe you’re not even a Dusty Springfield, the 60’s era British singer who specified in her will that, after her death, the friend caring for her cat, Nicholas, ensure that he sleep in a bed lined with her nightgown, that he be fed his favorite imported baby food, and that her recordings — You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, for example — be played each night at his bedtime.

That doesn’t mean that you might not want to look into making some sane and basic arrangements — even if it’s just an informal agreement with a good friend — in the event your pet outlives you.

About 500,000 animals are killed in shelters and veterinary offices each year after their owners die, according to a Consumer Reports article on pet trusts, originally published in 2007.

If you live in Maryland, though, establishing a pet trust hasn’t been an option. We’re one of 11 states with no legally binding way to ensure that a portion of an estate will be spent on an animals’ care. A bill to change that was approved by the House of Delegates yesterday and will now be considered by the Senate.

If it passes, Maryland would become one of 40 states, including Virginia, that allow residents to establish legal trusts for their pets.

Under the proposed law in Maryland, no more could be set aside than was needed to care for an animal and courts could overrule pet lovers who tried to leave millions to their pets and order that the money be given to other heirs.

Under current Maryland law, residents can name a caretaker for their pets in their wills and ask that a sum of money be set aside for the pets’ care. But if the designated caretaker proves unable or unwilling to care for their pets, there is no guarantee that the deceased’s wishes will be followed. Under the legislation, a court would enforce the terms of the trust, requiring that the money set aside go only to care for designated animals, according to a Washington Post article.

“The states and courts should recognize that there’s an important human-animal bond,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, which has pushed for such legislation nationwide. “People want the peace of mind of knowing that their pets will be cared for.”

The bill is being sponsored by two professed animal lovers: Del. A. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County), who has two cats, and Del. John A. Olszewski Jr. (D-Baltimore County), who owns a 2-year-old border collie-chow mix.

“You work hard for what you earn,” Olszewski said. “You should be able to decide how its spent after your death.”