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Pet Trusts Ensure Continued Care for Companion Animals

THURSDAY, 07 JULY 2011 19:16

070711SEN1BY GENE L. OSOFSKY, ESQ.

Special to the Times

Q: My two dogs are my constant companions and provide me a great deal of comfort,  but I worry about what might happen to them should something happen to me. Is there something I can do to provide for their care when I can no longer do so?

A: Yes there is, and you are not alone in expressing your concerns. Our furry companions provide great comfort to us, and it’s natural to want to ensure their continued welfare.

One technique is to create a Pet Trust. As its name implies, a Pet Trust is a trust created for the specific purpose of caring for companion animals. The essential elements are: the naming of a trustee to manage the money you place into the trust, a caretaker to take physical care of your pets, a non-profit backup to take the pets if your designated caretaker is not able to do so, and detailed instructions on how to care for your pets.  

Since January 2009, Pet Trusts have become enforceable in California in a court of law. And, most other states have similar laws.

The Pet Trust can be created in your will, but since the will is not effective until it is admitted to probate, which usually only occurs many weeks after death, it is better to create a pet trust during your lifetime. It can be created as either a stand-alone trust or as a separate part of your  Living Trust.

The Pet Trust should be funded with enough money to cover the continued care of your companions for the duration of their anticipated lifetimes, including items such as anticipated veterinary fees and reasonable fees to their caregiver.

The amount of funding need not necessarily be large: for smaller animals such as dogs and cats, a few thousand dollars may be sufficient, while more would likely be required for larger animals such as horses.

But your death is not the only concern. What if you became ill and can no longer care for your animal companions?

To address this concern, you may also wish to include suitable powers in your Durable Power Of Attorney authorizing your agent to take charge of your pets if you become incapacitated and either furnish pet care themselves or hire a suitable caregiver to do so at your expense.

Likewise, you should give your agent specific instructions to bring your pets to visit you if feasible even if you’re not living in your own home, so that you and your pets can maintain your bond.

Your estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a suitable Pet Trust as part of your estate plan. Taking this extra step to provide for your companion animals can bring you great peace of mind and the comfort of knowing they will be cared for when you can no longer do so yourself.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. For more information, visit his website at www.LawyerForSeniors.com.

Related:

Leona Helmsley’s Will to Give $1 Million to Dog Causes, Down from $12M

Plan Ahead For Your Pets’ Care… Like Oprah

Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You

Using and Attorney is Often Best, Especially of You Are Talking Leona Helmsley or Oprah Money… For the Rest of Us Here Is A Great Book:   Order Your Copy Today:  Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must-have Book for Your Owner

Cross-Posted at Ask Marion

July 9, 2011 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ASPCA Asks Court to Direct Helmsley Money Back to Dogs

ASPCA Asks Court to Direct Helmsley Money Back to Dogs

The ASPCA, along with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Maddie’s Fund, filed suit this week in New York Surrogate’s Court to intervene in the matter of the late Leona Helmsley’s $5 billion estate. The suit seeks to overturn an earlier ruling that allows the Helmsley Trustees—those responsible for issuing charitable grants from the estate—to disregard Mrs. Helmsley’s specific instructions that her wealth be used to help dogs.

“Just a fraction of the money involved in Mrs. Helmsley’s estate is a game-changer for animal welfare,” says Marsha Perelman, ASPCA Board Chair. “The fate of dogs in this country could very well rest on the decision of this lawsuit—it is that critical.”

No nonprofit groups involved with animal welfare were contacted or given an opportunity to register formal objections prior to the court’s controversial ruling last fall. As a result of that ruling, and in clear violation of Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes, less than 0.1% the trust’s initial round of grants was allocated to dog welfare-related charities.

“Dog fighting, puppy mills, pet homelessness and overpopulation are not $100,000 problems. But they’re not billion-dollar problems, either,” says Ed Sayres, President and CEO of the ASPCA. “Mrs. Helmsley understood the importance of animal welfare. She wanted her worldly estate to make our society better for dogs and animals—and if distributed as she intended, it definitely has the power to do so.”

This case has larger implications beyond the fate of the Helmsley estate. The three organizations believe that the court system has a responsibility to protect the wishes of any decedent, and also to protect the charity world from the whims of trustees who wish to ignore estate planning instructions. The misdirection of the Helmsley fortune should be of interest to everyone who hopes to provide for beloved pets after death, as well as to the multitude of organizations, from nonprofits to universities, that rely on bequests.

The groups involved in the lawsuit are not seeking grants for themselves, but do hope to work with the Helmsley Trustees in an advisory capacity to award grants to animal welfare groups of various size and scope around the country. “There has been a sea change in recent years in how we treat animals. It’s a shame that the Helmsley Trustees don’t understand or respect that change,” says Sayres.

Do you Twitter? Use this hashtag to tweet on this article: @aspca and #HelmsleyEstate

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August 15, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Rights And Awareness, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Owner's Rights, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leona Helmsley’s will to give $1 million to dog causes, down from $12m

The Queen of Mean will get to throw dogs a bone after all – but that’s about it.

The trustees for Leona Helmsley‘s estate said Tuesday they have started spreading her estimated $5 billion fortune by awarding $136 million in grants to charitable causes; a mere $1million is going to the dogs.

Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, had ordered in a 2004 revision to the mission statement for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust that its money go to “purposes related to the provision of care for dogs,” along with other charities.

A Manhattan judge ruled in February that the money was not limited to man’s best friend, allowing it to be spread among dozens of charities for sex abuse victims, Jewish day school students, the homeless and medical research.

“Throughout their lives, the Helmsleys were committed to helping others, through the innovations of medical research, responding to those in need during critical times, and in other areas,” the five trustees said in a statement.

“We now have the privilege of continuing their good works by providing support where it will make a difference.”

The biggest grant, $40 million, will add doctors, improve technology and finance an expansion of the Center for Digestive Diseases at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell.

Other recipients include a center for the bowel disease program at Mount Sinai Medical Center, a charity that provides food in southern Africa and Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, which is getting $2 million.

Among the canine causes, Helmsley’s $1 million gift will be split among 10 charities, including some that train seeing-eye dogs and dogs for the deaf, and another that trains inmates to raise puppies to become bomb-sniffers.

The Queen of Mean left $12million in her will to her beloved white Maltese, Trouble, while freezing out two of her grandchildren “for reasons that are known to them.”

Last year, a judge awarded the disowned grandkids, Craig and Meegan Panzirer, $6 million, and sliced Trouble’s cut to $2 million. The remainder was to be put into the charitable trust.

The grandkids charged Helmsley was not mentally competent when she signed her will.

BY: JOSE MARTINEZjmartinez@edit.nydailynews.com
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

I say… Who is this judge to over rule someone’s will?  This money should all go to the charities and Leona’s designations, which means all to animals or the dogs if that was Leona’s wish!  Leona was a tough old bird and knew what she wanted!!!!  And if she wanted to disinherit her grandkids… so be it!  Why even a make will???? …Ask Marion/JOMP~

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Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must-have Book for Your Owner

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August 12, 2009 Posted by | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Just One More Pet, Pet Owner's Rights, Pets, Political Change, responsible pet ownership, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments