Pets, Probate and Pre Nups
Here is a previous post about Pets and planning for the future.
In most states, money and other assets cannot legally be left to “non humans” in a will. This, of course, is a simplified version of the law, concerning Pet Trusts and pet trust law. I decided to write this brief article after reading about Lauren Bacall. Sadly, the great actress died recently and she left behind her cherished dog, Sophie. Ms. Bacall left funds so that Sophie could be cared for.
Concern for the care of pets when the owner dies is a topic that has become more prevalent in the past decade. According to the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) there are about 179 million cats and dogs living in family households. Pet trusts are entering the estate planning landscape and I foresee that they will become an increasingly larger part of Estate Planning. One reason for this is that companion animals have become an integral part of family life, and as such, their owners/carers/pet parents want to provide for them.
Here in Colorado, there is Colorado Revised Statute Law 15-11-901 (1994 amended 1995) under Title 15. Probate, Trusts, and Fiduciaries. Within that Colorado statute is “Honorary Trusts; Trust for Pets”
An article by Kim Bressant-Kibwe, Esq. on the ASPCA (Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) website www.aspca.org titled “Pet Trust Primer” gives a very good synopsis of Pet Trusts.
Pet Trust Law statutes vary from state to state and there are still a few states that do not allow the establishment of pet trusts.
There are often funding limits as well as term limits placed upon the pet trust. To give an example – the trust may exist until the death of the animal beneficiary or for a maximum of 21 years.
Another point to keep in mind is that in Colorado, all trusts having its principle place of administration in Colorado shall, within 30 days following trustee acceptance of trust, shall register the trust in the Court of Colorado, this includes trusts established for pet.
Another issue surrounding pets is the growing number of pre-nuptial/marital agreements/contracts that include terms for “who gets to keep the pet(s)” if the marriage dissolves. These co-called “pre-pups” help to avoid costly litigation between the two parties and often they even outline the visiting arrangements for the pet(s).
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