Since the dawn of time, pets have held an important place in our hearts and our homes.
Ancient Egyptians used to mummify faithful pets and have them buried with themselves. This was a dubious honor for the pet.
Even in modern America, people have attempted to take their pets with them.
For example, Mary Murphy died in 1979, leaving $200,000 to Pets Unlimited, a shelter for pets.
However, the more controversial provision in her will was her command that her pet collie, Sido, be euthanized. The probate court found that Mary did not have the authority to have her pet euthanized.
But, the trend has been toward providing for your pets, rather than trying to take them with you.
In 1993, Doris Duke, heiress to a tobacco fortune, left $100,000 to her dog, Rodeo. Actress Betty White's will reportedly leave her entire estate to her pets. States are increasingly recognizing the validity of pet trusts.
How Does a Pet Trust Work?
You name a trustee to hold funds for the benefit of your pet. In times past and even on occasion today, the funds to care for the pet were simply left in trust for the pet's caretaker.
Many states now provide for a trust naming the pet as beneficiary. The most common amount left in a pet trust is $25,000.
Of course, more may need to be set aside if you have a pet with a longer life expectancy, if your pet requires expensive medical care, or if you desire more extravagant care for your pet.
You can specify the caretaker of the pet and backup caretakers. You can set forth your exact wishes for the pet, including diet, daily routine, toys, grooming, socialization, medical care, and disposition of the pet's remains.
The trustee and caretaker may be the same person, or you may choose different people for each role. By choosing different people, it provides a check and balance.
Pet trusts can be a great way to ensure your pets are cared for, even after you are gone.
A qualified estate planning attorney can help you plan for your pets, so that they continue to get the love and care they deserve-even when you are not around to provide for them yourself.
Robert J. Kulas is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been engaged in the practice of law in Florida for the last 23 years. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, call 398-0720.