Wills & Trusts

Legal Reform Needed So Pampered Pets of the Well-to-Do Inherit as Planned, Law Profs Say


Setting up an estate plan to take care of Fido and Fluffy can be more complex than one might think.

Money to care for a beloved pet must be left in trust, with a designated caretaker. And even with all the high-priced legal talent available to Leona Helmsley, the hotel heiress made a common mistaken in providing that her pet dog, Trouble, should be buried in the family mausoleum, reports Reuters:

Animals in the United States cannot legally be buried with humans.

Meanwhile, gifts to charitable trusts qualify for a tax deduction under U.S. law, but charitable remainders from pet trusts don’t, law professor Adrienne Davis of Washington University tells the news agency.

“Although pet inheritance in America was recognized in 1923, and despite several recent innovations, the law remains unstable,” she said, calling for legal reform to ensure that pampered pets get the estate benefits that their owners intended to give them.

Another Wash U professor, Frances Foster, calls in a Florida Law Review article for a paradigm shift in the way family is implicitly defined under inheritance provisions. They assume close relatives are most deserving. But for many today “their pets, not their human family members, are their nearest and dearest,” she states.

Hat tip: Above the Law

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Dealmeister’s Daughter Leaves $8.3M Mansion to the Dogs; Lawyer Named in Resulting Will Contest”

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