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In Praise of Trust Fund Kitties


If you want your beloved pets to benefit from your generosity after you are gone, that is your prerogative.  What you do with your estate is your business.  Since animals cannot be beneficiaries of a will in their own right, you will have to word your will in such a way that your pets are not the ones inheriting from you, but the money that you have set aside for them goes to their care.  Providing for the care of domestic animals is a fairly common practice among pet owners, even if the testator also left most of the estate to family members or friends.  The wealthy misanthrope who leaves his entire estate to his beloved schnauzer, his only friend in the world, is a stereotype, not a reality.  The cases of animal-related estate disputes are the ones where the testator made a legal error.  For example, Leona Helmsley, the businesswoman who left a fortune to her Maltese dog Trouble, made news headlines because of the amount of money.  Helmsley did a lot of things right in her estate plan; her only mistake was designating more money for the care of one dog than the dog could ever need in its lifetime.  To find out more about providing for your pets in your estate plan, contact a Washington, D.C. estate planning lawyer.

Anyone Who Has Ever Coughed Up a Furball on the Carpet Should Not Be a Beneficiary of Your Will

Probate courts do not usually directly contradict the provisions of a legally valid will, but a probate court recently ordered the removal of seven pampered Persian cats from the McMansion they had inherited.  The cats belonged to a woman who died at age 84 and left a will saying that her estate was not to sell her house until after the last of her seven cats had died.  The will stipulated that the cats should live out their days in her house, where they had lived since they were kittens.  She set aside a separate amount of money for each cat’s care.

While the decedent was meticulous in specifying that the estate should sell the house after the last of the cats died and in calculating each animal’s expenses, the probate court was not satisfied.  The Humane Society determined that it was not safe for the cats to live together in the house without a human roommate, even though someone came to the house several times per day to feed the cats and clean the litter box.  The probate court ordered the personal representative to find new homes for the cats, while making every effort to honor the decedent’s wishes to keep the cats together.

A way to avoid this problem is to set up a trust to manage the care of your pets after you die.  It should include a salary for a full-time caregiver, preferably on a live-in basis, who may or may not be the same as the trustee.

Contact Tobin O’Connor Ewing About Estate Planning for Animal Lovers

A Washington, D.C. estate planning attorney can help you write an estate plan that provides for the care of your pets.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor, and Ewing in Washington, D.C. or call 202-362-5900.



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