Pet Planning

What About My Pets?

Today, a dog filed suit against a cat over the interpretation of the Last Will and Testament of their former owner. At stake is the sum of $1,000,000.00. The issue appears to revolve around whether the testator intended to benefit the dog or the cat, but, in actuality, it boils down to one caretaker over another.

Of course, this is a fictional case. But it points out the problems associated with the care of pets after the owner passes away. Too many times, the owner did not make provisions for the care of a pet, which many people consider a part of the family.

So, what are some of the alternatives?

Generally, a pet owner could leave a directive in their will that provides for the care of the cat, dog or any animal, plus a financial stipend for the appointed caretaker. This could be accomplished as simply as discussing the care of a pet with a close friend or relative. A will takes effect upon the demise of the pet owner.

Naming a caretaker in a will does not address the issue of what happens if the owner must move into a nursing home where pets are not allowed. What happens while you are still living and cannot care for your pet?

This is where, for example, a pet trust could address questions while the owner is alive and unable to care for the pet. This could be a separate trust. In that trust, the pet owner could address what he or she intends, for example, the type of care needed for the animal.

Another alternative is a Pet Protection Agreement. It is basically a contract with a third party for the care of the animal.

Now that we have addressed a few of the alternatives, we must ask the question, who pays the income taxes on the trust? Of course a dog or cat doesn't pay income taxes, even if in the past some enterprising individuals have claimed their dogs and cats as dependents. (Please be advised that this violates Federal and state income tax law.) The trust will actually pay the taxes.

If you have a pet, you should consider, at the very least, what the consequences for your furry friend will be.

If you would like more information about planning for the care of your pet, please contact an experienced estate planning lawyer who is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) via email or phone us at (724) 216.6551 at our Greensburg, Pennsylvania office.

The Iezzi Law Office serves clients in southwestern Pennsylvania, including Greensburg, Pittsburgh, Delmont, Monroeville, Murrysville, Latrobe, Irwin, Uniontown, Connellsville, Indiana, Somerset, and other towns located in Westmoreland County, Allegheny County, Fayette County, Indiana County, and Somerset County.

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