April 21, 2015; WSET-TV (Amherst County, VA)

Rebecca Carroll died almost 40 years ago, leaving a will that provided first to family and friends, and then, once her last beneficiary died, the remainder—$700,000—was to go to an animal charity. The only problem is that the charity, named as the Lynchburg branch of the “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” does not exist.

Trustee Wells Fargo has filed a petition to modify the trust so that it can go to a charity or charities whose purposes fall as close as possible to the donor’s intent. Meanwhile, animal charities in Virginia are lining up to get a piece of the action.

There is, in fact, a Lynchburg Humane Society, and attorney Brian Moore thinks they have a good case. “Geographic location would have to be something the court would consider. Because that is more likely than not the organization that person was referring to,” said Moore.

These kinds of mistakes with animal charities seem to be not so unusual. This article cites another case of a man leaving his estate to an animal charity that didn’t exist, causing three different animal charities to fight over $600,000. In that case, the Bedford County Humane Society ended up winning. Another situation covered by NPQ had one animal charity gifted with a grant meant for another group altogether, only to have it clawed back and given to the group it was originally meant for.—Ruth McCambridge