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New Interest in Estate Planning for Pets

Posted Sep 4, 2007 10:41 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Only a select few are able to follow Leona Helmsley's lead and leave a pet $12 million as part of an estate plan. But news of the massive trust she set up for her dog—to whom the hotel and real estate magnate gave more than any other individual beneficiary—is helping to raise awareness that those of more modest means can also provide in their wills for Fido and Fluffy.

A trust is one way to do so. Most states now have laws that make it relatively easy to set up so-called statutory pet trusts, funded either from estate assets or by a life insurance policy that names the trustee as beneficiary, explains USA Today. Other options include leaving money to a trusted relative or friend to pay for the pet's care, and setting up a bank account in advance that names the individual as beneficiary.

If worst comes to worst, "You always know someone will take care of your kids, but you don't know that someone will take care of your cats," says Lacie O'Daire, a Cleveland attorney who has established pet trusts. She practices with Walter & Haverfield.

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