First and foremost if you have any animals, you need to determine how they should be cared for after you have passed away (if you like we can help you through our special Guardian Angels for Animals program). Remember to always carry with you The Humane Society of Canada Emergency Alert Supporter Card that contains vital information about who to contact in the event that you become ill or are injured. Also make sure that you have an Emergency Alert Decal on the doorways to your homes to let people know that you have animals inside that may need help.
Secondly, you should decide whom you want to appoint as your Executor/Executrix and a second person to take his/her place in the event that at sometime in the future, the Executor/Executrix is unable or unwilling to serve in this capacity. Because the Executor/Executrix is the person who will make certain that your wishes are carried out, selecting the right person is very important.
(Some people have asked us if The Humane Society of Canada can serve as the Executor of their Last Will and Testament. The short answer is "yes", provided we can discuss this with you to make sure we are able to carry out your wishes. This also saves your estate from paying out Executor’s fees which can run about 5% of the total value of your estate).
(For example, this means that for a donation of $5,000 that another $250 is used to help animals. For a donation of $25,000 that another $1,250 goes to help animals; and for a donation of say $100,000 that another $5,000 goes towards animals and so on).
Third, you want to make a list of all your property and personal information such as bank accounts, insurance policies and so forth and make two copies of these documents and your Last Will and Testament. One copy should be kept in your home, and another copy for your Executor.
Fourth, there are three common methods you can use to make out your Last Will and Testament:
- You could do it yourself (we can supply you with the blank forms)
- You can use our network of lawyers and accountants who have agreed to donate their services
- You can hire your own lawyer, notary public, trust officer, accountant or financial advisor (they can also consult for free with us)
Let’s examine each option, one at a time.
While you could write your own Last Will and Testament, it is not something that lawyers generally recommend. On the other hand, we know that people want to be very private about their business and we understand and respect this. We also know that some people feel that their estate is not sufficiently large enough to require the use of a lawyer. Other people may not want to use a lawyer because they feel nervous or suspicious, or think that a lawyer will charge too much money.
Lawyers will also say that even if you make an honest mistake because you don’t want to seek professional advice, it could mean that your wishes to help animals and others are not properly carried out.
Therefore, for these reasons, lawyers generally recommend that you should always seek the advice of a professional advisor such as a lawyer, notary, trust officer, accountant or financial advisor.
However, we also know that having said all of this, some people will still be reluctant for a number of reasons to seek outside professional advice. So we’ve come up with a solution to your problem.
You can contact us directly, or you can have a friend or a family member contact us directly for advice. You can also have your professional advisor contact us directly on your behalf.
Any information that you provide to us will be held in the strictest confidence.
You can speak directly with Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada. For more than 40 years, he has worked here in Canada and in over 100 countries helping animals and nature. Mr. O’Sullivan has experience in handling estates and he has access to a wide range of tax and legal experts here in Canada and around the world.
The Humane Society of Canada also has a number of professional advisors, lawyers, accountants and others, who have volunteered to donate their fees and services to help animals. We work only with the best and the brightest advisors.
And if you don’t like any of these suggestions, then we’ll give you the blank forms to fill out and you can do everything by yourself.
The choice is yours. It is entirely up to you. After all, it’s your money.
Fifth, the following is a combination of the previously suggested versions of how to leave a gift to the animals:
"I bequeath a (specific sum of money or property; or portion of; or the remainder of) my entire estate by universal legacy and absolute ownership to THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF CANADA (a registered Canadian charitable organization BN 81196 4493 RR 0001; toll free telephone number 1-800-641-KIND and www.humanesociety.com) for its general charitable purposes to be used in such a manner as the Society shall in its sole discretion determine."
Sixth, you will need to sign your Last Will and Testament in the presence of two witnesses, who will in turn sign the last page of this document in the space provided. Then all three of you will initial each page in the bottom right hand corner and alongside any corrections you might have to make. The two witnesses also should be residents of Canada and we recommend that they should be younger than you. Please remember, if you prefer to keep your business private, the witnesses do not have to actually read your Last Will and Testament. Their role is to witness your signature, and if called upon later to provide assurances that you were signing the document of your own free will in order to make certain that your wishes would be followed.
Seventh, you may wish to periodically review and update various sections of your Last Will and Testament in case of any changes in your life or changes to tax laws.
Eighth, make a checklist of your belongings, bank accounts, life insurance, and other important information. Use the special folder we have provided to ensure that a copy of this checklist and all of your other important documents is kept in a safe place.
Do I need to advise you that I have left a gift to The Humane Society of Canada in my Will to protect animals and the earth?
That’s entirely up to you. Rest assured that any information you provide will be kept completely confidential. Knowing about your gift does allow us to plan ahead for animals and helps you organize your affairs. Even more importantly, it also gives us a chance to go over your Will with you and make any suggested changes that you agree are appropriate. And we would like to recognize and honour you for your gift, even if you want this to remain a private matter that is just between you and us. However, it’s your money, and it’s your choice. We’d like to honour your donation in whatever way that you feel is more appropriate.
A Message from Michael O'Sullivan, Chairman & CEO of The Humane Society of Canada:
"It may surprise you to learn that even though I’m only 55 years old, that I’ve had a Will since I was 23 years old. That’s because I work in so many dangerous situations here in Canada and around the world helping animals.
And with a wife, two small children, and a houseful of dogs and cats who depend on me, my family doesn’t need any unpleasant surprises if anything happens to me. Everything is already taken care of.
I updated my own Will not very long ago. I took care of my family and my pets, and then I started leaving money to The Humane Society of Canada, the Ark Angel Foundation and other good causes. Within five minutes, I had given away more than I had in my entire lifetime. But the point of this story is not to tell you what a wonderful person I am, but to tell you how good I felt about doing it.
And the best part of all is that once I was finished, I hadn’t taken a single penny out of my current bank account. I didn’t feel a thing. It is the only donation which each and every one of us can ever make in the thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Over the past 40 years, I’ve been able to help a lot of animals through the kindness and generosity of people who remembered the animals in their Will. I’ve handled large estates like those of Glenn Gould and Canadian Tire magnate John Billes and smaller estates from hard working Canadians from all walks of life who wanted to continue the fight against cruelty to animals.
We are grateful for any amount you are able to give to help us prevent the infliction of cruelty and suffering upon animals and nature.
Thank you for being such a good friend to the animals,"
CANADIAN WHO’S WHO
O’SULLIVAN, Michael Edward, B.S.Agr.; animal
Chairman & CEO