If you love animals like I do, you often wonder how they perceive the world around them, including us. Do they know when we love them and what love means to them? I certainly believe that animals understand love as a concept. Through hundreds of years of evolution house pets and domesticated animals learned to understand human emotion better than the wild animals because of close interaction with humans and because they witness our lives and our daily reactions to things. I firmly believe that our furry family members know love and know that we love them and love us back. Do we love them enough to ensure that they are taken care of when we are no longer around?
A client of mine showed up to our “quick coffee” meeting at Starbucks with her two adorable puppies. “I am old, you see…” she started our conversation by jumping right to it. I tried to object, after all 75 is not old in my book! She waived my objections away. “My puppies are 2 years old. Yes, it was irresponsible of me to take them on but I fell in love and they were offered for adoption so I went for it thinking I was doing a good deed. I have three children and they have three children each… I love my grandkids to death but they destroy everything, they are toddlers… My kids do not have time to take a shower, leave alone take care of my puppies. I have a friend who is younger, loves animals but he is not to be trusted with money. I have a problem and I need your help. I don’t have too much to leave behind but I want my furry kids to be taken care of.”
And this is how we started planning for her furry family members using the same approach as if we were planning for her children. She was determined to ensure that pet trusts be created to take care of the puppies, Sam and Missy, and she wanted her friend to take care of them using the funds in the trust. She wanted an independent trustee to run the investments and distributions because she believed that her friend was terrible with managing money (and for a good reason; he pissed through his own substantial inheritance in just three years).
New York State law allows you to create pet trusts and such trusts may be created during lifetime or at death (under your Will or Revocable Trust Agreement). You may also appoint a separate person to be a trust protector to ensure that the animals are not abused and the funds are not misused and wasted (my client chose to appoint her daughter to be a trust protector).
Starbucks should have billed me for that meeting. We spent about four hours discussing all the options and versions of the trusts. At the end of the day, another happy client walked away with an easy heart knowing that her furry kids were all set should she predecease them.
Bottom line is that you need to consider what will happen to your animals when you are gone. If you make no provisions in your documents, your pets will be disposed of as part of your tangible personal property! Whoever gets the couch gets your horse or parrot! This is crazy and leads to all sorts of problems. Call us and we will work with you to ensure that your pets land on all fours even if you are not around and that they are surrounded by love throughout their lives since they deserve it!