ESTATE PLANNING FOR YOUR PET?
Never in a million years did I ever think I would be writing a newspaper article on this topic. However, this is what I like about the general practice of law in a small town. You just never know what issues you are going to run into.
I have written prior articles about the importance of estate planning. Planning for the needs of your family and friends is of the utmost importance. In some instances, careful planning for what will happen to your companion animal is also important. Dogs, cats, horses and other pets are like members of the family. It is important that these four legged “family members” be taken care of after you are gone.
Under Indiana Law, it is clear that a trust may be created to provide for the care of an animal that was alive during the settlor’s life time. This Indiana law, commonly known as the Indiana Pet Trust Statute, leaves no doubt that the following can be done regarding your pet:
A trust can be created to provide for the care of any animal that is alive during the pet owner’s life time;
- Any trust created terminates on the death of the animal, or if there are more than one pets named in the trust, after the death of the last surviving pet;
- The pet owner can name someone in the trust to enforce the terms, or a person can be appointed by a court;
- If at any time a court determines that the value of the trust exceeds the amount required for the trust’s intended purpose, the court can order distribution of excessive funds to the owner, if he or she is living, or to heirs or beneficiaries, or to those beneficiaries named in the trust document.
A remainder beneficiary must be named in the event the pet dies before the trust funds are all used up. Under Indiana Law, pets are regarded as personal property and any money left for an animal has to be in the care of someone who acts in the best interests of the pet. You need to name someone as trustee who you believe is trustworthy enough to do as you wish and direct.
A trustee can be a family member or other individual. Another option to consider would be the Peace of Mind Program at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. The Peace of Mind Program was established in 1996 and provides an option for pet owners to leave prearranged means insuring the pet’s future care after an owner passes. The program places enrolled animals into a new home matched to the wishes detailed in a will or trust provision and insures that the pet receives medical care for the rest of its life time. Unless the owner has identified an adoptive home, the Peace of Mind Program works with the pet’s veterinarian and the College’s network of Purdue veterinarians to attend the needs of a pet until an appropriate adoptive home is found. After the passing of the pet, the remainder of the bequest provides support for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine.
Enrollment of the Peace of Mind Program requires a minimum bequest of $25,000 per pet. There is also a pet identification form which must be completed. If you want more information on the Peace of Mind Program, you can contact the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine direct, or check out the web site information located at www.vet.purdue.edu/giving/how-to-give.php.
Taking care of a furry “family member” can be an important part of your estate planning. Seek competent legal counsel in order to make sure this goal gets accomplished.
This article is published for information purposes only. It is not intended nor is it to be used as a substitute for independent legal advice.
Stu Weliever practices law with HENTHORN, HARRIS & WELIEVER, P.C., 122 E Main St, Crawfordsville, Indiana, and can be reached at (765) 362-4440 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.