Pets and Estate Planning

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) approximately 85 million families own a pet. Not surprisingly, 63% of those pets are dogs, and 42% are cats. It is common knowledge that many pet owners treat their animals as though they are members of their families. If you happen to have a pet, did you know that as part of your estate planning you can make arrangements for your pet to be taken care of?

Celebrities have been known to make estate planning arrangements for their pets. For example, Michael Jackson left his chimpanzee $2 million dollars payable upon Michael Jackson’s death. Due to the chimpanzee’s aggression, the pet ended up being cared for at an animal sanctuary. Rumor has it that Oprah Winfrey has bequest $30 million dollars to her five dogs. Source: Everplans.

While the average pet owner is not going to make arrangements for their pet to have millions of dollars, they still may want to arrange for someone to care for their animal in the case of death.

Kansas law allows for a pet owner to create a trust for the purpose of making sure that their animal or animals are taken care of. K.S.A. § 58a-408. Specifically, K.S.A. § 58a-408(a) states: “A trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The trust terminates upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the settlor’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.” This type of trust is often called an “Honorary Trust.”

Years ago, a man named George Searight had a dog he adored named Trixie. George had an estate plan drafted. As part of this estate plan, George put $1,000.00 in a bank, designating his executor (this is a person who is required to carry out the wishes of George) pay $0.75 per day for the benefit of Trixie. After George died, the validity of this arrangement came before a Court for review. The Court said that this arrangement is considered an honorary trust, and is valid. The Court ruled that George could provide a gift to his animal as long as the purpose was to care for the animal, and the gift was accepted. In re Searight, 87 Ohio App. 417 (1950).

To summarize, if ensuring your animal was cared for after your death, you could establish a plan for a trusted person to care of your pet based on your instructions. Often, it is prudent to name alternate caregivers just in case your first choice caregiver is unable or unwilling to serve. Your plan of care for your animal could be very specific. For example, you could designate the food your animal eats, their daily routine, socialization, grooming, and veterinarian care procedures in the trust.

If estate planning for your pet is a priority for you, I highly recommend you speak with an estate planning attorney. If you have questions about whether preparing an estate plan is right for you, call Gilchrist & Fields Law.

The information throughout this webpage is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Legal advice must always be customized to the individual case. Further, the information on this webpage does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Gilchrist & Fields Law Firm.