By Evan Roe – Senior Reporter, Junior Clerk – Exclusively for Fisher Law Office
Lonesome George, a Pinta Island Galapagos giant tortoise, died this morning at an estimated age of 100 years and is survived by no fellow members of his species. For years, scientists had attempted to help him produce offspring to preserve his rare tortoise heritage but met with failure. This is sad day for conservationists, biologists, and nature-lovers everywhere.
Not to mention estate-planning attorneys.
Mr. George was unfortunately negligent in preparing for this eventual day and failed to leave behind any will or testament indicating his wishes for the distribution of his property.
“It really is tragic when this sort of thing happens,” said attorney Randy Fisher as he wiped away a tear in an interview with his legal assistant. “Now his surviving caretaker, Mr. Fausto Llerena, will have to endure the emotionally and financially-taxing process of probate, whereby the state decides to whom the tortoise’s assets will be awarded.”
When asked to clarify to what assets he was referring, the deadpan Mr. Fisher said, “I assume he at least had a retirement account, possibly an IRA, at his age. If not, then just his cage and corpus.”
The tortoise was known to be lethargic, and usually unwilling to exert much effort in the pursuit of any endeavor that did not involve food or drink. Never employed, he lived exclusively on handouts from the state and private donors.
“No, I don’t recall him ever requesting an attorney to secure his estate,” said Mr. Llerena with a regretful shake of the head. “I tried to convince him to look into a revocable living trust, or at least a simple will, but he preferred to think he still had another century ahead of him.”
Some, such as Mr. Llerena, have been quick to defend the tortoise against charges of laziness or irresponsibility by pointing out that, no biological relatives surviving, Mr. George had nobody to name as an inheritor to his estate and was likely depressed, and that he was, in fact, a tortoise.
Nevertheless, had Mr. George considered the advantages of preparation then he perhaps would have saved Mr. Llerena and the state a good deal of time and court fees expended in speculation about his wishes.
“The state has claimed his body for science,” said Mr. Llerena. “I’m sure that’s what he would have wanted. I don’t know what I’ll do with his cage though, I guess just auction it on eBay to help pay the cost of probate.”
Clapping him on the back in a rather strange show of solidarity, Mr. Fisher mused, “Mr. George could have been remembered fondly. This is exactly why I encourage my clients to prepare. If only the tortoise had planned ahead, he could have avoided an enduring legacy of laziness, infertility, and subsequent species extinction.”
If only, indeed.