You may have heard about the estate plans of some very wealthy, high-profile people that pampered their pets. Leona Helmsley was a billionaire that was known as the “Queen of Mean” because of her dismissive attitude and crude statements.
She may not have been very nice to some humans, but she certainly had a soft spot for her Maltese, Trouble. Helmsley reportedly established a trust fund for the dog that was funded with $12 million.
That made Trouble the wealthiest dog in the world, right? Actually, a German Shepherd that was owned by Countess Karlotta Libenstein was the beneficiary of a trust that was worth over $100 million.
Oprah Winfrey and Betty White are two popular living celebrities that have established multimillion dollar trust funds for their dogs according to reports.
Seniors and Loneliness
These celebrity cases are interesting, but in fact, there is a good reason why an ordinary person may want to consider pet planning. If your spouse predeceases you when you are a senior citizen, and you no longer have interactions at work every day, loneliness can set in.
This can be exacerbated by the loss of friends and extended family members, and people live busy lives so there may not be much time to spread around. There may be a reluctance to admit it, but loneliness is a fact of life for many seniors.
Nothing can compare to your spouse or a close friend, but a dog can make a big difference. You suddenly have nonstop companionship provided by an entertaining four-legged friend that thinks the world of you.
Since the pet relies on you for food, water, grooming, etc., you have responsibilities that can make you feel more useful. If you are still able, you will invariably take the dog for walks, and this is good for your physical and emotional health.
While you are at the park or the dog park, you may run into the same people and strike up friendships. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to interact with passersby that comment about your dog.
You can intuitively understand why this would be a very positive change, and qualified health experts espouse the virtues of pet ownership for senior citizens.
When longevity is a source of concern, you are going to take pause before you adopt a dog if you are a responsible person. You could ask someone to act as the caretaker with the stipulation that you will leave them an inheritance in a will, but this is a shaky solution.
They may be willing to do it on the day that they are asked, but things can change over time. Plus, from a legal perspective, there would be nothing forcing them to use the inheritance to provide for the pet in a manner that you would expect.
Fortunately, there is a far better solution in the form of a pet trust. These devices are now legal in all states so they are recognized in Kentucky, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
When you establish a pet trust, you designate a trustee to act as the administrator after you are gone. You can name a person you know who is willing to assume the role, or you can alternately engage a trust company or the trust department of a bank.
A successor beneficiary that you name when you are drawing up the trust would inherit assets that are left in the trust after the death of the pet. As a result, you do not have to be concerned about excess funding.
The trustee would be legally compelled to follow all the instructions that you record in the trust declaration so your wishes would be carried out. A pet trust can open up a pathway to pet ownership, and it can be part of your broader estate plan.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
If you would like to speak with an Ashland, Kentucky estate planning lawyer about pet planning or any other aspect of your legacy plan, we would be more than glad to assist you. You can set up a consultation appointment if you call us at 606-324-5516. The number for our Florence, Kentucky office is 859-372-6655.
The number for our Charlotte, North Carolina and Huntersville, North Carolina locations is 704-944-3245, and you can fill out our contact form if you would rather send us a message.