• Jennifer Reed

Estate planning for your pet- When you are not Leona Helmsley

According to a recent statistic published by the American Pet Product Association 68% of American households include at least one pet, and when people with wealth plan for their pets it makes the news.

Leona Helmsley was an American businesswoman, billionaire, and known for leaving a hefty $12 Million trust fund to her dog Trouble. Mrs. Helmsley is not the only wealthy individual to leave large amounts of money to their pets: Michael Jackson left $2 Million to a pet chimpanzee; Miles Blackwell left $10 Million to a pet chicken; and Oprah Winfrey has set up a $30 Million trust fund to care for her pets.

Are all Pet trusts and planning this lavish? Not at All!

In most cases when we talk about pet planning we want to make sure that the entire family is taken care of in the event of an emergency or the pet owners passing.

I recall an incident from when my mother was in the hospital and her roommate had an emergency with no plan in place. The roommate was an elderly woman who had fallen in her apartment and had not been found for 3 days (more on this in a future post). While the roommate was in pretty rough shape, her only concern while in the hospital was who was going to take care of her cats. Some issues she was having were: no one had authorization to access her apartment so the apartment manager was not going to let anyone in, she had not given anyone a key, family was out of state, and it appeared she was not going to be able to go home in a long time. In her case, an animal control officer and animal shelter had to step in. We can avoid this added stress and uncertainty with having a plan and people in place.

We want to know:

· Does someone have access to the home to feed and care to the pet in an emergency

· Is the veterinary information readily available

· Does the person taking care of the pet know the pets unique characteristics and needs

· In the event of the owners passing is it going to be a financial burden for a friend or family member to care for the pet

· Are the owners wishes know in how the pet is to be cared for in the remainder of the pets life

· Is there an “exotic” pet that requires special care

Pet care plans can take the form of pet care contracts, trusts, Will provisions, or working with an animal rescue. An estate planning attorney can help you prepare the entire family for the unexpected.

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