Get a bunch of attorneys together and there’s bound to be talk!  Not sex in the city or desperate housewives gossip  -  instead we grumble about certain judges, pick over thorny legal issues, and, take a look at various current events from a lawyer’s point of view.  Here are two recent items that caught our attention:

Pet Story   

Disney World has recently opened a resort for dogs, cats and other pets such as birds, hamsters and potbellied pigs.  It offers boarding, bedtime stories and a water park.  Dogs can reserve villas with outdoor patios and flat-screen TVs, and cats can choose condos with two or four stories.

Checking the statistics, we find that there are currently over 400 million pets in the United States, and 62% of Americans own one or more pets.  Pet owners spend over $45 billion each year on food, toys, veterinary care and luxuries.  Even in today’s sagging economy, spending for pets continues to increase.

So, why does this interest attorneys?  Because so many pet owners are willing to lavish money and attention on  their furry, feathered or scaly friends today, but never plan for what may happen to their pets tomorrow.

What happens to your pet if you become incapacitated?  What if you die?  Only 40% of Americans currently have Wills, and many of those who do, don’t provide specifically for their pets’ continued care after the owner’s death.  And Wills can’t provide for care of pets if the owner becomes incapacitated.  Other documents, such as a Power of Attorney or Trust giving your agent specific instructions for pet care, are required.

We treat our pets as family members, but the law sees them only as personal property, like a piece of furniture or a car.  All the fancy food, pet resorts and luxury grooming  you paid for are meaningless if something happens to you, and you didn’t take the time to give your pet a plan for the future. 

Wrapping up Business in an Online World

Recent statistics show that more than 90% of all business enterprises in the U.S. are family owned.  60% of all employees work for a family business, and 50% of our gross domestic product is generated by family-owned companies.  Many of these businesses are sole proprietorships, not partnerships or corporations. 

Self-employed business owners are relying more and more on the internet for marketing and selling products.  In e-commerce, customers order and pay online, and businesses fulfill orders online.  What happens when a business owner dies or becomes incapacitated in these cases?  Do customers keep ordering and paying, but never receive the products?  Who is responsible for taking over or closing out the business?  What actually happens on the day after an owner is no longer on the job?

It is estimated that 75% of self-employed business owners have no business succession plan in place.  If the owner is no longer able to manage the business, there may be no one at all to take over.  Yet an agent or executor of the estate must wrap up the business or insure that it continues to function at a profitable level.  When e-commerce is involved, it is even more critical that there be a capable successor ready to jump in and manage things.

What should you do to prepare for this?

  • Create an estate and business succession plan that identifies how your business will be transferred to other family members, employees, or agents. This includes a Will, a Trust, and appropriate Powers of Attorney so that a clearly identified person can immediately take over and manage the business. 
  • Create lists of company names, contact information, account numbers, log-in names/passwords, and other data for all vendors and suppliers, credit card companies, banks, Web sites, email accounts, ISP and file transfer protocols.  Give these lists to the agent named in the business succession plan or to your attorney for safekeeping.
  • Discuss your plans regularly with family members and employees so everyone understands what to expect if something happens to you. 

Your e-commerce clients and customers will appreciate it too.  No-one likes to be left clueless out there in cyberspace.

This article is part of an ongoing series of articles pertaining to legal issues in the LGBT community. Previous articles can be viewed at  This information is intended for general information purposes only, and is not intended to provide legal advice.  Christopher Heritage is an attorney in Palm Springs, CA, who focuses on LGBT estate planning, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage, probate, trust administration, and consumer bankruptcy.  He welcomes questions and comments, and can be contacted at 760.325.2020, or by email: