Planning For Your Pets After You Die
A New York woman made headlines about a year ago when she revised her will to leave $1 million to her Maltese terrier.
When 60-year-old Rose Ann Bolasny dies, Bella Mia will inherit a vacation home, a trust fund, and jewelry. The dog, whom Ms. Bolasny says is a “gift from God,” already has a $100,000 yearly allowance for grooming, meals, shopping sprees, and other items. She says she discussed changing her will with her two sons, and they are both on board with her decision. “I explained to them that I know they love Bella Mia very much but I wanted to make sure that if anything happens to us she was taken care in the way that she’s used to,” Ms. Bolasny said.
Bella Mia is not even close to the richest dog on the planet. Fifteen years ago, human representatives for Gunther, a German Shepherd, used part of the dog’s $145 million fortune to buy Madonna’s villa in Miami.
Leaving Property to Pets
Roughly 70 percent of American households include at least one dog and/or cat. While there are a few owners on either end of the spectrum (people who excessively dote on their pets and people who neglect them), the truth is that most owners care for their pets and sacrifice at least some of their time and money to care for them.
When people involuntarily part ways with pets, it is normally because they relocate and the new residence does not allow pets; moreover, a few pets and their humans separate because of divorce. In all involuntary separation cases, many people are understandably concerned about their animals and want them to be cared for. Furthermore, many people have no children or other heirs, and they want at least some of their possessions to stay “in the family.”
In 1998, the Michigan Legislature amended the estate code to allow pet trusts. For the act to apply, there must be no beneficiary in the will and no “definitely ascertainable beneficiary” available. Furthermore, the pet trust automatically lapses after 21 years.
Setting Up Pet Trusts
One of the biggest advantages of pet trusts is that the owners designate the trustees, so owners have peace of mind that their pets will be cared for. Most pet trusts also contain provisions for replacing the trustees if they fail to care for the pets in the way the trusts dictates. There is no limit to the corpus (amount of money that is in the trust), although the court can reduce the corpus and redirect the money if the judge deems the pet trust to be excessive.
In lieu of trusts, owners can put provisions in their wills setting aside money for a pet’s care and also designating a person to perform such care. If there is money left over after the trusts expire or when the pets die, the funds normally either go to the place designated in the documents or they revert to the testators (persons who made the will).
Count on Experienced Attorneys
A pet trust gives owners one less thing to worry about. For a free consultation with an experienced Portage estate planning attorney, contact the Law Offices of David L. Carrier, P.C. After-hours and weekend appointments are available.