I used to be afraid of dogs. Big dogs. Little dogs. Mean dogs. Friendly dogs. It made no difference. I did not like them and they did not like me. Then I met a tiny, sleepy King Charles Cavalier; my wife and I named her Anna, brought her to our house, and watched as she took over our home.
Anna is affable and has an outgoing personality. She loves dogs and people of all sizes, and as a result it has become impossible for me not to learn to interact with all types of other dogs.
For me, this has opened a whole new world of relationships with animals and their guardians.
For many years, a large part of my practice was in the estate planning field, and gradually it involved into a niche practice for animals guardians and their pets. I have written on all aspects of estate planning for animals on my blog for more than four years. As a result of this blog, I became acquainted with Andy Reed, director of development at the Humane Society of Naples, Florida.
The Humane Society is a no-kill facility that was established in 1960 to concentrate its efforts on pet surrenders, adoptions, education, and legislation. There is a full-time veterinarian that is also available to the public.
Naples may have been the epicenter of the recent economic collapse with the triple-whammy of the housing market, local banks, and the stock market all diving at exactly the same time. Nevertheless, Naples is still favored by successful, wealthy people from all over the world as a destination, and the generosity of these individuals, whether residents or visitors, is a tremendous benefit to the Humane Society.
Through my relationship with Reed, I became a volunteer with the Humane Society with a goal to network and meet with anyone who might be able to assist in fund raising for the society. I have also been honored with the appointment as the chairperson of the Planned Giving Committee.
Reed and I work closely together in presenting seminars to attorneys, accountants, financial planners, insurance agents, veterinarians, and animal lovers on estate planning for animal guardians. We discuss the various aspects of pet trusts, powers of attorney for animals, caregiver agreements, and the use of wills in animal estate planning. The educational programs that we provide are generally well received, and many attendees ultimately provide a financial benefit to the Humane Society.
The outgrowth of these seminars has led to my certification to teach a Florida Bar CLE class entitled “Estate Planning for Animal Owners.” These classes have, in turn, provided the opportunity to meet more local attorneys, business persons, and community volunteers, all of whom share the love of animals as a common interest. My volunteer work helps me network with other attorneys and often presents co-counsel and referral opportunities.
Volunteering in your community is an excellent way to meet other civic-minded individuals and gain the reputation as the “expert” in your particular area of practice. If you provide educational or informational seminars for little or no cost, you can soon become the “go to” person on your chosen subject.