When James Gandolfini passed away in 2013, we saw from a distance the problems his estate created; specifically, we saw the enormous taxes that were due because of his choices. Last year, again, we saw shortcomings in Robin Williams’ estate – though not to the degree of Gandolfini’s, but it did serve to remind us how important setting up trusts can be. With the death of other beloved celebrities, we’re getting a look into what works when it comes to our pets and how we want them cared for when we’re no longer able to do so. Pet trusts are an affordable and important element for pet owners that should be part of their overall estate plan.
Our Loyal Family Members
Fans of Joan Rivers know how much she loved her dogs. Her goddaughter, Tracie Hotchner spoke of this love in the days after her death, “She loved her dogs dearly, and they meant so much to her.” Rivers isn’t alone. Our pets are not just the “family dog” or “Janie’s cat”; they’re family members who sleep next to our beds at night, join us on family vacations and who love and protect us because it’s just their loyal nature.
Of course, with an estimated value of more than $150,000,000, Rivers could well afford anything she wanted to ensure the safety and well -being of her four dogs. But you don’t have to have millions in the bank to ensure your pets are cared for if you’re no longer here to take care of them.
Fortunately, Ohio does have a law on the books for the care of family pets. A trust can be created to provide care of an animal if its owner is incapacitated or deceased. The trust will remain in place as long as the animal is living. In some instances, when there is more than one pet, the trust is designated to provide for all of them. In those dynamics, the trust remains in effect until the death of the last pet. Whoever is selected to provide the care and ensure any other stipulations in the pet trust can decline to do so and in those instances, the courts may appoint another person. It’s always a good idea that you consider more than one person to ensure your pets don’t face a “gap” in care. Your estate planning lawyer can help you create a proper pet trust.
As mentioned, Ohio does have a law, but even those states that don’t have specific laws on the books provide for pet trusts and they’re effective regardless of where you are.
What’s in a Pet Trust
These trusts allow you to make very specific arrangements about the type of care you want your pets to receive as well as your instructions on how the funds in the trust should be used. In addition to naming caretakers, you have the benefit of being as specific as your choose in how the trust is written.
While the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals encourage families with pets to place microchips under the pet’s skin for easy identification, there are now ways to take DNA samples, which it says will further protect your pet and the trust from fraud. Most families, though, will rely on photos of their pets and other important information, such as the vet’s name, the pet’s birthdate, allergies and other vital information that will keep Fido safe and healthy.
To learn more about pet trusts, we invite you to contact our Cincinnati estate planning lawyers today. We can show you ways to protect your cherished pets.