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Did you know there is such as a thing as a Pet Trust? The most famous example of a Pet Trust may be the one set up by the hotel heiress Leona Helmsley. When Ms. Helmsley died, she left most of her $5 billion estate to charity, but also created a $12 million trust for her beloved Malatse dog, appropriately named Trouble. Further complicating matters was the fact that Ms. Helmsley cut two grandchildren out of her Will completely. As you might imagine, years of costly litigation resulted.
Formal Pet Trust are just one of many ways to provide for your pet in your estate plan. Here are some things I recommend considering when planning for your pet.
Who do you want to care for you pet?
Pets are considered “personal property” and will pass to whomever inherits your other assets unless you designate someone specific. Give some thought to your pet’s needs – health, activity level, disposition – when choosing who should care for them after you die. It’s also a good idea to check with that person and make sure they’re up for the job.
Do you want to leave money to care for your pet?
You can’t leave money directly to your pets. If you do so, those funds will simply be added back to the “residue” of your estate and distributed to your heirs. However, there are many options for providing financially for your pet.
Pet Trusts are one vehicle for doing so. Most Pet Trusts aren’t funded to the tune of millions of dollars. Instead, the average Pet Trust holds a modest amount of money set aside to help cover the cost of feeding and caring for your pet. And, as with all trusts, the terms are entirely up to you. Some people like to designate a trustee who is different from the person caring for the pet to manage the funds and make sure they are being used for the benefit of the pet.
A more informal option is to simply gift a certain amount of money to the person who becomes the guardian of your pet. Setting a little something aside to defray costs and thank the person who will care for your pet is a thoughtful gesture that is often unexpected but much appreciated.
Will your pet be hard to place?
If you have an exotic pet or one that may be hard to find a home for, it’s good to consider this in your planning. There are several organizations that can help, such as the ASPCA and private rescue organizations. In some cases, you can leave money to an organization to care for your pet during its lifetime and also to support the organization.
These are just a few of the many resources and options available to provide for your pet after you're gone. If you have questions or would like to discuss options, Shaila Buckley Law can help. Give me a call at 208-995-9224 or shoot me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – to discuss. You can also click here to schedule an appointment.