The recent announcement of the death of “Trouble,” the famous canine heir of Leona Helmsley’s fortune, has made the issue of pet trusts once again headline news—something which is likely to bring positive results to pets all over the country. According to this article in MSN Today, “Pet estate planning has grown since Helmsley’s will made headlines [in 2007]. Today there are retirement homes for pets all across the country, and at least 45 states allow for pet trusts.”
The growing awareness of pet trusts (or at least the need to make some arrangements for your pets in the event of your death) has benefitted not only pets of all shapes and sizes, but society in general. “A study from the late 1990s published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found 1 percent of dogs and 1.5 percent of cats coming into 12 animal shelters had been surrendered because of owner death.”
These days, because of the media’s close attention to the controversy surrounding the inheritance of “Trouble” Helmsley, not only do more pet owners make provisions for their pets in their wills or trusts, but more charitable bequests are mad to animal shelters and other animal care/protection agencies in general. Additionally, some veterinary schools have taken it upon themselves to provide for pets who have lost their owners: “A few veterinary schools offer estate planning options like lifetime care for pets and placement in a home. The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, established by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, offers a place for pets to live in addition to veterinary care.”
The truth is that making arrangements for your pet in the event of your death isn’t all that difficult to do. While “some owners leave money to whomever they’re entrusting their pet to as a way of making sure the animal does not become a financial burden;” this may not be necessary for ALL pet owners. Many owners simply write instructions for the care of their pets into their wills or trusts, somewhat similar to a nomination of guardians for minor children.
As with most estate planning issues, there are many options available when it comes to the care of your pets. The important thing is not what you choose to do, but that you choose to do something to ensure that your pet won’t be left out in the cold if something happens to you.