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pet trusts

How To Make Plans To Provide Care For Your Pet If You Can’t

How To Make Plans To Provide Care For Your Pet If You Can’t

The best way to take precautions and ensure your pet will be well cared for is by doing some estate planning.

Consider what would happen if you became incapacitated without estate plan provisions for your pet: A legal process could be initiated to establish a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship on your behalf and a judge would choose a guardian for you. This person would be authorized to make decisions about your finances and your property, including your pet, because the law treats pets as property.

Although the guardian may understand the importance of your pet in your life and do what’s necessary to keep the two of you together, it’s also possible that he or she may decide your pet is a drain on your estate. Then, the guardian might send the pet to a shelter or give him or her to someone.

 

A Durable Power of Attorney

One option is to designate someone to act as your financial agent upon your incapacitation, by preparing a durable power of attorney document. This person would be legally entitled to make decisions about your finances and your personal property, including your pet, without the court’s involvement.

There is a drawback to such an arrangement, however.

Although your financial agent would have permission to manage your financial life, your power of attorney document won’t include instructions for how you want things managed. Those details will be up to the discretion of your financial agent. So, you won’t have any control over what happens to your pet.

A Revocable Living Trust for Your Pet

A far better alternative is to set up a revocable living trust.

In your trust document, you can spell out what you want to happen to your pet (and to all of your property), should you become incapacitated, and after you die, too. Here, the person you designate as your trustee will be legally bound to carry out your wishes.

The wishes can be as specific as you want. For example, you can require that if you become incapacitated, your pet should remain with you and how much you want the trustee to spend from the trust’s assets on things like food, veterinarian care, grooming and toys.

Alternatively, your trust document can designate a caretaker for your pet or state that your pet should go to a no-kill shelter. If you choose the first option, you can also use your trust document to ensure that the caretaker is compensated for assuming the responsibility of caring for your pet and reimbursed for any pet-related expenses.

An Animal Life-Care Center

Still another option is to specify that your pet be moved to a place like the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at Texas A & M University. Pets who live in such a facility are cared for by veterinary students and live luxurious lives. The cost is pricey however, so this option is out of reach for many pet owners. Enrollment fees at the Stevenson Center, for instance, range from $25,000 to $100,000 per pet.

Your trust document could also stipulate that if you must move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, you’ll want regular visits with your pet, “pet therapy” or to be placed in a facility with a house pet that provides companionship to residents.

Pet therapy typically involves a cat or dog and a handler who interacts with the residents or patients. The goal is to help individuals recover from, or cope with, a physical or mental health problem.

A Standalone Pet Trust

And here is one last option: Create a standalone pet trust. This specialized living trust would focus only on your pet; all the trust’s funds would be earmarked to pay your pet’s care and well-being and for services of a caretaker. The trustee could either be the caretaker or someone else who you’ve designated. This kind of trust would give you complete control over what happens to your pet.

Hiring an estate planning attorney to draw up a standalone pet trust would likely cost $1,500 to $5,000. If you already have a revocable living trust, your pet trust could be built into it.

One final piece of advice: work with an estate attorney with pet planning experience. And do it sooner rather than later. A debilitating illness or injury can occur quickly and without warning, Once it does, you’ll have no control over the future of your pet unless you’ve done the right planning.

Read more related articles at:

Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You

Also, read one of our previous blogs at:

Pet Trusts Can Protect Your Pets after You’re Gone

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

 

 

Pet Trusts

5 Things You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pets After You Die

5 Things You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pets After You Die

5 Things You Need To Know About Protecting Your Pets After You Die. Some days it seems like the only thing everyone can agree on is how much we love our pets. They are always happy to see us, their love is unconditional and they welcome us home at the end of the day. Being greeted by your dog’s wet nose and wagging tail can make all your troubles melt away – it’s better than a Calgon bath.

So what happens to our trusty companions when we die? Who will care for them? And will that person have enough money for a lifetime of caretaking? Here are five things you need to know about protecting your beloved Mr. Jiggles when you are gone.

    1. Pets are tangible property. In most states, pets fall into the same category as your car, furniture and jewelry. While they mean so much more to us than that, the law looks at them as chattel. Since the law regards pets as possessions, ownership of them is typically transferred in a will along with the artwork and household furnishings.
    2. Choose a caretaker wisely. Most people leave their pets to a child or immediate family member who will happily take care of the pet without additional monies left expressly for that purpose. If you don’t have a close family member to take your pet, consider leaving them to a friend, neighbor or other more distant relative. One of my elderly clients is leaving her pet to her dog walker who has already agreed to take the dog. Other clients, who have no one to take their pets, have left them to the local humane society or pet shelter with a substantial donation.
    3. Follow the money. Some clients will leave an outright gift of a certain dollar amount. The money is intended to be used to care for the pet, but often there is no requirement that the person use the money for the pet. Be aware that cousin Louie could take your cat Fluffy and the money, but then drop Fluffy off at a shelter the next day. You can condition the cash gift to Louie on his keeping Fluffy, but who is going to police that? And how do you ensure the level of care that Fluffy receives? A pet trust is the best way to prevent this scenario from happening.
    4. Creating a pet trust. Many states allow for pet trusts. You create a trust and on your death transfer ownership of the pet and cash to the trustee. The trustee then has to use the cash to care for the pet. On the animal’s death, the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with your written instructions in the trust. The trustee cannot use the trust assets for himself, although he can take a fee.
  1. Don’t leave your pet too much money. If you do, the court may reduce the amount of money held in trust for the pet’s benefit. Courts do not like to see folks punishing their heirs by leaving all the money to the dog. Remember the story of Leona Helmsley, the New York hotel heiress who left the bulk of her $12 million estate to her little white Maltese named Trouble? Helmsley was dubbed the “Queen of Mean” for disinheriting family members and leaving so much to a dog instead of family members or charities. A judge later reduced Trouble’s trust to $2 million, but Trouble still lived out her life in the lap of luxury with round-the-clock care and a security guard in Florida (there were kidnapping threats). The cost of her care was reportedly $100,000 per year.

Most pets do not need $100,000 per year for care. A much smaller amount will often suffice. And when the pet passes away, the rest can go to your family members, or better yet, to your local pet shelter or humane society.

Read more related articles at:

5 ways to make sure your dog will be protected after you die

How To Make Sure Your Pets Are Taken Care Of After You’re Gone

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Estate Planning for Pets: How to Protect Your Furry Friends

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

Click here for a short informative video from our own Attorney Bill O’Leary.

service animals and airlines

Service Animals & Airlines: New Guidance Issued by DOT

Service Animals & Airlines: New Guidance Issued by DOT

 

Service Animals & Airlines: New Guidance Issued by DOT. There has been a lot of heated debate on the topic of traveling with emotional support animals (ESA), psychiatric service animals (PSA), and traditional service animals. To resolve some of the conflict, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Final Statement elaborating on the department’s expectations and priorities regarding the treatment of passengers traveling with animals.

It is well established that individuals with disabilities are permitted to bring their service animals to most places they choose to go. Businesses are prohibited from refusing entry or service to an individual with a service animal, unless particular concerns are present. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is probably the law that comes to mind in these situations. It is certainly one law that protects those with disabilities from ill-treatment. But, did you know that the ADA does not apply to the skies? The ADA does not apply to airlines, their facilities, or services – that is where the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) swoops in.

Some Basic Comparisons

While the two Acts are quite similar, there are notable differences worth investigation. The DOT oversees the ACAA, which applies to airlines, their facilities, and services. The Department of Justice (DOJ) oversees the ADA, which applies to airports, their facilities, and services.

The DOT regards “any individual who has a physical or mental impairment that, on a permanent or temporary basis, substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment” as an individual with a disability. Correspondingly, according to the DOJ, “[t]he term “disability” means, with respect to an individual[,] (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment […].”

Wild Skies

In recent years, airplane cabins have started to look like menageries – passengers taking full advantage, and sometimes abusing, the ability to take certain animals along for the ride. With the uprising of sketchy online businesses “certifying” run-of-the-mill pets as service animals, or worse, providing doctor’s letters prescribing support animals, airlines began cracking down on the abuse. Airline restrictions became tighter and created questions of disability rights violations. Passengers flooded the DOT with complaints of unfairness and illegality.

In response to the rise of animal-toting airline-passenger complaints about unreasonable airline regulations, the DOT issued a Final Statement elaborating on its expectations and priorities under the ACAA. The statement provides clarification on the permissible and prohibited actions that airlines may take in regulating the in-cabin presence of various types of animals.

Animal Hierarchy

There are four general categories of animals when it comes to disability laws: pets, Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), Psychiatric Support Animals (PSAs), and service animals. In the aerial context, pets are often stored in the cargo hold of the aircraft and require an additional fee to the owner. ESAs and PSAs, are generally permitted in the cabin if certain criteria are met. Service animals are heavily protected and taken very seriously under both laws. Under the ADA, only service animals and some PSAs are protected.

Each Act provides guidance on various service animals, their legitimacy, and limitations. The ACAA establishes what animals are permitted in the cabins of aircrafts, and the ADA established what animals are permitted nearly anywhere else. Both Acts consider dogs and miniature horses to be “common” service animals, where the ACAA expanded the group to include cats as well. The ADA does not recognize any other species of service animal.

“Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog [or miniature horse] that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog [or miniature horse] must be directly related to the person’s disability.” The ACAA does not have a technical definition within the text of the Act, but the department informally explained, in 2018, that the “DOT considers a service animal to be any animal that is individually trained to assist [sic] a qualified person with a disability or any animal necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger.” (Note, however, that back-end of this statement contradicts some other provisions of the ACAA on the differentiation between service animals and emotional support animals.)

Both Acts give the highest protection to service animals. The text of the ACAA specifically categorizes service animals separately from ESAs and PSAs, which are lumped together. The ADA considers specifically trained PSAs to be genuine service dogs. The ADA explicitly does not recognize ESAs under the Act, where the ACAA provides them protection. Both Acts recognize the potential need for an individual to require the assistance of more than one service animal; but, the ACAA also permits a disabled passenger one ESA in addition to (up to) two non-ESAs.

Additional ACAA Clarifications

With the exception of snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders, airlines cannot categorically prohibit the use of species that are not dogs, cats, or miniature horses. An airline could determine that the particular animal compromises the health or safety of others, and therefore prohibit its entry onto the aircraft, but on a case-by-case basis only. Further, airlines are prohibited from breed bans as well.

Airlines are permitted to require travelers with ESAs and PSAs to: check-in early; provide advanced notice; provide a recent doctor’s note from their treating physician verifying that the individual suffers from a recognized emotional or mental disability, that the presence of the animal is necessary, and lists the provider’s credentials. Airlines are absolutely prohibited from requiring traditional service animal users to check in early, provide advance notice, or provide additional documentation, on flights less than eight hours.

Limited questions are permitted by both Acts when a disability is not obvious or clear. The ACAA permits airline personnel to ask “how does your animal assist you with your disability?” For service animals, this verbal assurance by the handler, in addition to any ID cards, harnesses, etc. must be accepted as evidence that the animal is a service animal. For ESAs and PSAs, the airlines may ask for documentation of vaccination, training, behavior, etc., for the purpose of determining the potential threat to the health or safety of others – but, generally, if the individual has complied with the advanced notice and check-in rules, has their doctor’s note, and does not have an unruly or unusual animal companion, the airline must permit its attendance.

The Long and the Short of It

The ADA protects the disabled on the ground; the ACAA protects the disabled in the skies. The DOJ controls the ADA; the DOT controls the ACAA. The ACAA has carved out additional service animal protections for Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Animals; the ADA only recognizes traditional service dogs (and miniature horses), including PSAs that have been specifically trained to complete a task for its disabled handler.

Traditional service animals are a familiar and, generally, accepted tool for many disabled people. However, the influx of psychiatric and emotional support critters exposed grey areas that the public was happy to explore. Prior to official guidance from the DOT, airlines and passengers were left without mutually understood limits for the presence and use of these creatures. As passengers pushed the bounds, airlines feverishly fought back with restrictions and refusals. The DOT has now offered airlines and passengers a better understanding of the department’s priorities, permissions, and definitive prohibitions. Both sides now have the explanation needed to better protect their specific interests and rights under the ACAA.

Read more related articles here:

New DOT rule paves the way for airlines to ban emotional support animals on flights

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals

Also, read one of our previous Blogs here:

Pandemic Pets and Pet Companionship: 7 Benefits/Considerations for Care Coordination and Estate Planning

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

 

Pet Trusts

Pandemic Pets and Pet Companionship: 7 Benefits/Considerations for Care Coordination and Estate Planning

Pandemic Pets and Pet Companionship: 7 Benefits/Considerations for Care Coordination and Estate Planning

One thing that many people learned as they were forced to stay at home during the pandemic is that pet companionship is important. For many, life trapped in their home would’ve been unbearable had they not had their furry friends.

An unanticipated effect of the pandemic was “a surge in interest in fostering and adopting pets.” Although unanticipated, this effect is not surprising given the cancellation of social human interaction during the stay-at-home orders.

With the surge in pet adoption, the significance and importance of care coordination and estate planning advice in regard to pets became increasingly clear.

Below are seven benefits for pet owners and key considerations for aging individuals and people with special needs.

  1. Reducing Isolation and Loneliness
  2. Lowering Stress and Anxiety
  3. Improving Fitness
  4. Increasing Social Interaction and Connection to the Community
  5. Improving Cardiovascular Health
  6. Improving Signs of Depression
  7. Providing Routine and a Sense of Purpose

Considerations:

  • Choose someone you trust and who knows your pet to designate as a temporary or permanent caregiver for the pet.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to feed, care for, and provide veterinary treatment for your pet’s lifetime.
  • Include pets in your estate plan to ensure that they have a caregiver and money is set aside to pay for care.
  • Write down information about the pet’s feeding schedule, personality and behavior, medical conditions, and veterinarian information and provide the information to the designated caregiver.
  • Consider the benefits of pet trusts.

Read more related articles at: 

3 Financial Planning Tips For Pets Owners

Yes, You Should Include Your Dog in Your Will

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

Do You Have a Pet Trust?

Establish a Pet Trust to Protect Your Pets After You’re Gone

Click here to check out our On Demand Video about Estate Planning.

 

karl lagerfeld and cat

Cat Is Fighting for Her Inheritance?

Cat Is Fighting for Her Inheritance?

A year later, and the estate of Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld is not yet finalized. However, some details have emerged that, while Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette is an heir, she isn’t the only one who will inherit a share of Lagerfeld’s grand fortune.

The seven beneficiaries are trying to access Lagerfeld’s assets that include real estate in Paris and Monaco, a bookstore and designer furniture.

Choupette is a blue-cream tortie Birman cat who was owned by German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld from around December 2011 until Lagerfeld’s death in February 2019 at the age of 85.

The designer’s feline has her own agent and, according to The New York Times, at the height of her fame she had two minders, a bodyguard, a concierge veterinarian and a personal chef.

Wealth Advisor’s article entitled “Karl Lagerfeld’s cat is locked in inheritance battle” says that Lagerfeld’s “trusted” accountant for many decades, 87-year-old Lucien Frydlender has been named to manage the creative director’s finances. In addition, Frydlender is responsible for distributing the estate, according to Lagerfeld’s will.

However, an investigation by French publication Le Parisienfeatured in Voici magazine found that Frydlender hasn’t been taking calls from the beneficiaries. The magazine also says that “after closing his office in September 2019, the former collaborator of Karl Lagerfeld has simply disappeared from the radar,” raising questions for those involved.

Frydlender’s wife has defended her husband and assured the public that there’s nothing suspicious going on. She says he’s not “on an island paradise with a hidden treasure.” Instead, she tells reporters that he’s “very sick”.

When Choupette the cat will get her inheritance and what that will look like is unknown. It’s been more that a year since the death of her owner, Lagerfeld. Choupette fans have been concerned for the pet, but the cat isn’t scrounging in garbage cans: she made over $4 million in 2015.

“People came by the store and said how sad they were, and half of it was about Choupette,” Caroline Lebar, head of communications for the Karl Lagerfeld brand, admits. “They’d say, ‘If she’s alone, I’ll take her home.'”

However, Lebar promises Choupette is in safe hands, living in Paris with Lagerfeld’s former housekeeper Françoise Caçote. “She is in good shape, and is surrounded by love.”

Reference: Wealth Advisor (June 9, 2020) “Karl Lagerfeld’s cat is locked in inheritance battle”

Read more related articles at: 

Karl Lagerfeld’s cat to inherit a fortune, but may not be richest pet

Karl Lagerfeld: Designer’s cat Choupette ‘named in his will’

Also, read one of our previous Blogs at:

How Do I Include My Pet in My Estate Plan?

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