A Legal Analysis of Tiger King, Episode 5: "Make America Exotic Again"

June 4, 2020

By: Thomas K. Rinaldi

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to roll across our wonderful country, I wonder what life would be like if Joe Exotic had succeeded in his presidential run in 2016. Imagine Mr. Exotic distributing surgical masks with tiger print to protect our health and welfare.
After his presidential hopes were dashed, Mr. Exotic decided to run for governor of Oklahoma in 2018 (also unsuccessfully). During this time, Mr. Exotic’s new business partner, Jeff Lowe, left the zoo and went to Las Vegas to operate “The Jungle Bus,” in which guests shuttled from casino to casino while petting tiger cubs. Cocktails and cubs – what could go wrong? I’ve already discussed the importance of obtaining a general release.

After discussing copyright and tradename infringement issues with Mr. Exotic, I would discuss various estate planning issues. At the time of his gubernatorial run, Mr. Exotic had not one, but two husbands. One, John, left Mr. Exotic for the company’s receptionist, while the other, Travis, accidentally killed himself in front of Mr. Exotic’s campaign manager. Surely, the campaign manager wished he had kept his job at Walmart. Mr. Exotic was overcome with grief, but two months after Travis’ funeral, he married Dillon.

Due to his unusual marital circumstances, I would have advised Mr. Exotic to speak with an attorney specializing in estate planning. Mr. Exotic’s estate plan could provide for the management and disposal of his assets during his life and after death, while minimizing possible tax implications. A proper estate plan might also have protected certain assets from the reach of potential creditors... like Carole Baskin, who this week prevailed in her lawsuit against Mr. Exotic and was awarded the zoo he once owned. Mr. Exotic’s wishes about how his assets should be distributed would be made clear. Imagine that Mr. Exotic was killed by the tiger that grabbed hold of his pant leg and tried to drag him into the feeding area. What rights would Dillon have to Mr. Exotic’s assets? A properly drafted estate plan could answer this question.

Don’t be like Joe. Realize that having an estate plan in place is a good idea. If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs, please feel free to contact Thomas K. Rinaldi, a.k.a. the “Attorney Ordinary,” in Florida or Joshua O’Neill in New York, and they will connect you with the appropriate trust and estate attorney.