When a celebrity passes away, Georgia will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place. With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.
At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter. Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper. However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.
How Pet Trusts Work
Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind. Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep. There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust. In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated. The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit. An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.
Better Than a Will
While your Georgia pet trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust. Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work. Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.
The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons Georgia will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust. What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker. Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.
Many clients who seek out estate planning in Atlanta have concerns when it comes to caring for their pets. After all, our pets rely on us for everything, although we all know that we gain so much in return. When engaging in estate planning with an attorney, you likely want to ensure that your steadfast companion is well cared for after your passing.
One approach is to actually set up a Pet Trust. This type of trust is created here in Atlanta specifically to take care of your special companion animal or animals when you are no longer able to do so. When setting up a pet trust, your attorney will ask you to make a few considerations:
• Naming a trustee who will manage the funds.
• Choosing a caretaker who will meet your pet’s needs. This may be the same person or someone other than the trustee.
• Picking a nonprofit organization that will care for your pet if the caretaker is unable to do so.
• Outlining specific instructions on how your pet is to be cared for.
While it may seem appropriate to simply provide for your pet in your will, most wills and trust lawyers will encourage you to set up a separate trust. This is because the money set aside for your pet’s care could get tied up in probate. At the very least, it can take weeks for funds to become available. Setting up a Pet Trust or making it part of your Living Trust helps ensure that the money will be there right away.
You may also want to consider including instructions for pets in your Durable Power of Attorney. This allows for a designated person to take over the care of your pet if you should become unable to do so for reasons other than your own death. If it is reasonable, you can even arrange for this person to bring your pet to visit you while you are recuperating or receiving other care.
Pets in Atlanta need to have an appropriate amount earmarked for their ongoing care. In addition to providing for food and other necessities, the Pet Trust should also include funds that can be used for veterinary fees. Additionally, you may wish to allot a certain amount to the caregiver in return for looking after Fido or Fluffy. A few thousand dollars is usually enough to cover the expenses most small pets will incur.
To create a plan for your pet, simply let your Atlanta wills and trust lawyer know that it is important to you. We will help you set up a Pet Trust so that you have the comfort of knowing you will be able to continue to provide for the animal or animals that gave so much of their love and comfort to you.