Provide for the Security of Your Favorite Pet After You’re Gone

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Many seniors in retirement care for animals. John and Lisa discuss how the law deals with animals and the best actions to take.

John

Hi everybody.

Lisa

Oh.

John

Yeah. Lisa is just playing on her phone. So we're about to start the show. We've got the intro music coming on.

John

Welcome to "Aging Insight" everybody. This is your host, John Ross, here live in the studio with my co-host, Lisa Shoalmire as always.

Lisa

Yes, I'm here.

John

And here we are. Of course, we're "Aging Insight." We're the number one place to get information on health, housing, financial, legal issues. You know, we're just trying to address a wide range of topics.

Lisa

Well, that's why we come every Saturday because, John, you can never know everything.

Lisa

I mean, we don't know everything.

John

That's right.

John

No, not quite.

Lisa

Not quite.

John

Not quite. Yeah, no, but there is a bunch of stuff that you can learn out there. There's a bunch of stuff that you can know. And a lot of times, you know, that little bit of knowledge, you may not necessarily know exactly how to do something or exactly what it is, but often, if you've got just a little bit of knowledge, you can spot something that is a potential disaster before it happens.

Lisa

Well, and you know, a little bit of knowledge makes you be able to ask some questions to get you where you need to go.

John

Ask smart questions, that's right.

Lisa

Well, John, you know, we are on the air on Saturdays thanks to our sponsors that make it happen. And so I wanna give a special shout out to a few of our sponsors including Texarkana Funeral Home, Red River Federal Credit Union, Reunion Plaza, Heritage Plaza...my gosh, I totally just lost it...the Barnett Agency. I'm sorry.

John

There you go.

Lisa

Anyway, those folks help keep us on the air and we appreciate it.

John

Yeah, we appreciate them and of course, we appreciate all y'all that are listening as well as the ones that are watching us live on Facebook. You know, we do this every Saturday, and while we're doing it on the radio, we're also doing it on Facebook. If you haven't ever gotten on there, get on the Ross & Shoalmire Facebook page, check us out, give us a like, follow the page, and you will be notified every time when we're getting ready to go live.

Lisa

Yeah. We get to your comments, and if we're live on the air, we can definitely address them then. If not, we'll pick them up after we're off the air if you make a comment later and we'll be able to answer or see what you had to say.

John

Yeah, that's right. So I got a few things coming up this week.

Lisa

Okay.

John

You know, our now quarterly breakfast over at Trinity Church, "Eggs & Issues," that'll be this Saturday on the 26th, I mean, this Thursday on the 26th.

Lisa

Thursday on the 26th over on Texarkana Arkansas side at Trinity, 8:30. Come on. We'll make sure you get a good breakfast and hear more information.

John

That's right. So yeah, I believe I'm gonna be discussing trusts, some basics.

Lisa

Some basics. You know, I was talking to one of our friends, clients, the other day and he said, "You know, I can always use a refresher on anything that may have heard about before."

John

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Lisa

So John, this week, I love getting out of the office. You know, it's nice to get out. But this week, I had to go do what I call a home visit, except it was at one of our facilities. And so I went to visit this gentleman and he needed to get some legal papers signed and he was not in good shape to come on over to our office, so I told him I will just come on over there. Anyway, got a change to go in, visit with him. And he and his wife were there. And his wife was talking about her granddaughter who actually worked at the facility and they've been so pleased with the care and everything. But John, I was looking around the room and there was an 8 by 10 framed photograph of a beautiful girl.

John

Okay, all right. Yeah, that seems reasonable enough.

Lisa

And so of course, when there's an 8 by 10 framed photograph of a beautiful blonde...

John

In the nursing home, so, I mean, this is something they brought from home.

Lisa

Yes. They brought it from home. It was on the nightstand. In fact, there were no other photos in there.

John

Right. So, yeah, so big deal, obviously.

Lisa

And this photo was set up on the nightstand, it was kind of at the end of the bed where the gentleman was. So if he just, you know, looks over his toes, there is the photo, this beautiful blonde. And John, that beautiful blonde happened to be a Labrador.

John

Ah, yes.

Lisa

But of course, I asked about the Lab and the gentleman, he just lit up. And started telling me, told me her name and, you know, all the treats and their little routines that they have and he was looking forward to get his rehab done so he can get back home. And of course, his poor wife, she was sitting there just kind of rolling her eyes. But she did say, she said, "Yeah, our dog, you know, it's Bud's dog and she's looking for him just as much as he's looking forward to coming back see her."

John

Yeah. You know, dogs are pretty important to folks. I got a call from our attorney Kristin [SP] down at our Longview office just this week asking...she said she had had a client that was wondering how to take care of their pet after they're gone. They wanted to include the pet in the estate planning.

Lisa

Right. You know, John, it's like you say, especially, I have noticed that, you know, particularly, you know, seniors, they're not quite as busy as, you know, career folks who're raising young families. And so, you know, a lot of times, that pet, that special dog, cat, I've had people who've had horses and donkeys, I mean, just all kind of things, you know, that's their family. And of course, these days, John, you know, we have lots of folks to refer to their animals as fur babies.

John

Yes. Some of them do.

Lisa

Some of them refer to them as fur baby. You know, they really, you know, personalize those animals. They add so much quality of life to our life.

Lisa

And so of course, it's just natural to concern yourself with their care, you know, and how they're gonna be cared for. If you've spoiled your pets and you're worried that if you're gone, they're just not gonna get the level of spoiling, then, you know, you may wanna do something about that. So that's a big deal for folks and more and more people are including pets in their estate plans.

John

Sure.

John

Yeah. And this has been going on for a while. You know, of course, anytime something happens with a big name celebrity or something like that, it's often gonna make the news. You know, I've included animals and planning for animals in estate plans for years. I've done it dozens of times in some form or the other. I've had a contested probate case that related to a bequest to a dog.

Lisa

To a Cocker Spaniel.

John

To a Cocker Spaniel. And so, yeah, this has been going on. I had actually pulled up an article that listed the top 10 biggest bequests to animals. And the first one was actually Michael Jackson. Now, listen, when I say first, I'm talking first on the list but not the biggest.

Lisa

Not the biggest, but you know, Michael Jackson, yeah, he was fond of a chimpanzee.

John

He was.

Lisa

The chimpanzee, I remember, name was Bubbles.

Lisa

And, you know, they talk about Never Never Land where Michael Jackson lived in California and he had a big kind of zoo type environment there. But Bubbles, Michael Jackson was photographed with Bubbles quite a bit. In fact, so we drew one up on our Facebook page, you can catch the King of Pop embracing Bubbles.

John

Yeah.

John

Yeah. And he left Bubbles two million bucks.

Lisa

Oh, all right then.

John

No, you know, that actually may sound like a lot of money. And I mean, it's a lot of money. I'm not saying...I imagine that the care and maintenance of a chimpanzee is pretty significant. And I don't know what a chimpanzee's life expectancy is.

Lisa

Yeah, I think they're pretty long.

John

I think it's pretty long.

Lisa

Yeah. Not all that different from humans.

John

You know, I mean, you'll see often a young couple, maybe they carry one $2 million life insurance policy because they're trying to provide for a lifetime's worth of care for their children. And so, you know, I'm not sure...Like, in this case, I don't know $2 million is necessarily that outrageous a sum given the kind of animal it is. Now, the next one on the list was actually, and I don't know how to pronounce the name Majel, Majel, but this is Gene Roddenberry's wife.

Lisa

Okay. So Gene Roddenberry, that name rings a bell for me. He was creator of "Star Trek."

John

Yeah, yap. They left $4 million to their dogs. So we're getting up there. Now, number 8 of our top 10 list, I like this one, Myles Blackwell. He was a publishing magnate.

Lisa

Okay. Not a name I'm familiar with.

John

But when do I get the moniker "magnate?"

Lisa

Yeah, elder law magnate. Well, I think you could bestow it on yourself.

John

Yeah. I can be anything I wanna be these days. So okay, from here on out, I'm John Ross, elder long magnate. Anywho, Miles Blackwell, he left $10 million to a chicken.

Lisa

To a chicken? That chicken better have all the secret recipe and the [inaudible 00:11:08] inside of it.

John

A chicken. He left it to a chicken, a chicken named Gigoo, I don't know.

Lisa

Just crazy.

John

Yeah. So then we got number seven was...

Lisa

Some lady...

John

Gail Posner. Don't know who she is but she left $11 million.

Lisa

To Chihuahua and a Maltese.

John

Yeah. And, of course, I think one of the most famous ones that we get out there a lot is Leona Helmsley.

Lisa

Yes. Leona Helmsley. You know, I think that was the first time I really became aware of crazy pet bequests. Because I think...that was...

John

2007.

Lisa

Okay. And, you know, she was very famous because of her tax evasion, I think. She was a New York City kind of, I don't know, magnate, I guess, you would say.

John

Yeah, she was an heiress, I believe.

Lisa

Yes. So she left...

John

$12 million.

Lisa

Yeah, to a Maltese named Trouble, I think it was?

John

Trouble, and did, in fact, create such.

Lisa

Yes. Because it seems like a niece and a nephew and everybody got involved because, you know, where there's money, especially when it's to an animal.

John

Yes, apparently, she had 2 grandchildren and I think she had left $6 million to the 2 grandchildren and $12 million to the dog.

Lisa

Well, you know, the dog doesn't talk back, doesn't...you know. You know, the unconditional love of an animal.

John

Ben Rea, a British antique dealer, next on the list at $12.5 million to a cat named Blackie.

Lisa

A black cat.

John

In fact, a black cat. And on the same note, Maria Assunta, an Italian real estate investor who left $13 million to her black cat. Oprah Winfrey, who's not dead by the way...

Lisa

We don't wanna start a rumor.

John

Not starting a rumor.

Lisa

There's no help here.

John

But she has stated that she set aside $30 million for the protection of her pets, they're various dogs. Luke and Layla, a couple of Golden Retrievers, Sadie, here's another Cocker Spaniel, and Sunny and Lauren, which are Springer Spaniels.

Lisa

Yeah. So, you know, Oprah has got the money.

John

Yeah, another chimpanzee, and then we jump up to the number one. And the number one, Karlotta Libenstein, who in 1992...

Lisa

So '92.

John

...1992 left $80 million dollars...

Lisa

That's an eight-zero.

John

...yeah, to Gunther, a German Shepherd. And I guess maybe this was some sort of perpetual sort of deal where it would continue on for the heirs...

Lisa

The Gunther's decedents?

John

The Gunther's descendants.

Lisa

So future litters of German Shepherd puppies?

John

Yeah. So we had Gunther III, who was the one at the time of death. By 2000, we had Gunther IV and the investments, that $80 million in investments, had ballooned to $372 million, part of which was used to buy Madonna's Miami mansion.

Lisa

Because Gunther IV needed a Miami abode?

John

Yes, he needed a place to stay, you know.

Lisa

Okay.

John

So obviously, it can get a little egregious out there.

Lisa

Yeah. And so, yeah, we hear about the celebrities and the really wealthy, maybe slightly insane people that make these kinds of requests. But the bottom line is, like you said, John, it's a very common concern, even among folks on our little neck of the woods.

John

Yeah. This is perfectly normal. There are some good ways to do it. We're gonna get back into some of that here in a bit, but right now we have to take a break, so stick around. We'll be right back. Yeah, they're not sure if whether or not...that may have actually just been a rumor about the dog and the trust and buying the house.

Lisa

Well, but it's on the internet. It's probably true.

John

That's right. It says the sale was part of a publicity stunt involving a European pop group leading many to question the credibility of certain parts of the story.

Lisa

Well, you know, if you are the caretaker of the million-dollar German Shepherd, well then...you know, German Shepherds kind of look alike. So if the dog dies, you might be like, "Oh, wait. Here's another one."

John

Yeah, the little gold fish on the kid and flushing the old one down and throwing a new one in the thing before the kid gets home from kindergarten.

Lisa

Maybe so.

John

Yeah, no, Mr. Bubbles is still fine.

Lisa

And we're gonna talk about, you know, I mean, $80 million for a German Shepherd is just, you know, crazy. You know, I always think about when I see those big celebrities or really wealthy people doing that, I think, gosh, kind of like Oprah Winfrey, I mean, she does lots of charitable work and she supports schools and orphanages and things like that. But gosh, $30 million, I would rather see that invested in humankind, you know. Hey, dogs can get by with a couple mil, I would think.

John

Yeah. I would just think that that money could go to a better service.

Lisa

But, you know, she earned it. One thing that's great about America is you can do what you want to with your money, your stuff.

John

That's right, even something crazy.

Lisa

Yeah.

John

Within limits, of course.

Lisa

Well, you know, and it's interesting that that was published and publicized that Oprah has made such a provision. You kind of wonder if that wasn't a kind of a publicity thing of its own to garner favor with the animal folks.

John

Well, very well could have been.

Lisa

You know, not that she's not provided...I don't know.

John

Right. But she's still alive. So we don't know for sure anyway.

Lisa

Right.

John

And we may never know because I bet she set her stuff up so it would be quite private at her death.

Lisa

Yes. Yeah, on the Bubbles thing, I heard that the two million bucks never made it to Bubbles.

John

Is that right?

Lisa

Mm-hmm.

John

Poor Bubbles...

Lisa

Yeah, so Bubbles is lived apparent...

John

...just walking in the streets, pushing a cart.

Lisa

And apparently, Bubbles lives in a chimpanzee rescue in Florida but is supported by the charitable contributions of others to the rescue. The two million bucks never made from Michael Jackson's estate, because if you recall at the time of his death, there was a lot of civil liabilities issues going on.

John

Yes, there was. So now, we're going back live. Here we go.

Lisa

Welcome back everyone to "Aging Insight." I'm Lisa Shoalmire. I'm here with John Ross. Today, we're talking about pets and, John, while we don't have any pets of our own right now.

John

I mean, we have teenagers and they're like little Tasmanian devils.

Lisa

Well, they'll be lucky if they get any...there's no millions in bequests going their way that I can think of at the moment. But, you know, I like animals. I like pets.

John

Sure. Yeah, we have had pets.

Lisa

We have had pets. But, you know, it may be, and a lot of folks in retirement, you know, they get back on the...you know, a lot of my retirees, seniors, that come in talk about pets, a lot of times, it was an animal that they sort of acquired because a child, adult child, rescued dog. The next thing you know, the adult child could not take the dog with him somewhere, and then the dog came to live with Grandma and Grandpa. And, you know, now, they're just so attached that, you know, it's now the senior's dog.

John

You know, and before we kind of get into what you should do or can't do or anything like that, the interesting thing about, you know, the way the law works is animals, despite our...what do you call it when you...

Lisa

Anthropomorphication?

John

Thank you. Anthropo...

Lisa

That word.

John

Making them into human types.

Lisa

Humanizing them.

John

Yes, humanizing them. Despite that, from a legal perspective, animals are chattel.

Lisa

They're just simple property, at least right now in 2018, they're property.

John

That's right, they're property.

Lisa

Wait. Let me just through in, there have been some lawsuits filed of late trying to give animals a higher elevated status of sentient beings and they would have the same rights or similar rights to humans. But so far, that hasn't happened.

John

That's right. And so they are property. And when it comes to estate planning and leaving property behind, the one thing you cannot a bequest property to is other property.

Lisa

Okay, explain.

John

So for example, I cannot leave my home to my car.

Lisa

Sure, okay.

John

Right? And my car is not a human. It can't have ownership interests in a house, right? It can't do anything with it. So I can't leave property to other property.

Lisa

Okay. So you mean, you can't just leave dollars to a dog because...

John

Right, because that's the same, legally speaking, that's the same as me leaving my house to my car. It doesn't work. And so, you know, so there's been this problem for a long time. This is where, you know, they ran into problems with some of the litigation surrounding the Leona Helmsley, was because you start seeing a bequest of, "I leave $20 million to my Maltese, Trouble." Well, that's property being left to other property. And so it fails right on its face.

Lisa

Yeah, okay.

John

So the first thing that you've gotta understand and we've got this fundamental problem in the legal world that you can't leave property. And on that same note, you might think, "Well, but what about like a trust, right?" You know, trusts have a beneficiary, a trustee, and the person that creates it. But the beneficiary of the trust also cannot be property.

Lisa

Okay. So John, so why don't we just simplify this all? And if I have an animal and I'm concerned about their care, I could leave...let's say I leave $10,000 to my sister and I want her to care for my Labrador.

John

Right.

Lisa

Okay. So in that situation, the 10,000 bucks is going to my sister.

John

It is. And that's often what they refer to as a condition subsequent.

Lisa

A condition subsequent. Oh, my goodness. That's a blast from the property class, request class.

John

Yeah. So you've left it to them and then with some other stuff. But the way those laws have been interrupted is basically you just left it to them.

Lisa

Yes. I left $10,000 to my sister, and whether she cares for the dog or not, 10,000 bucks is hers.

John

Yeah, that's exactly right. So those are the fundamental problems from an estate-planning standpoint. There have been some changes in the laws. We're gonna talk about some of that. We're gonna talk about the right way to do it, the right way to plan for those pets once we get back from the break. And of course, during that break, get on Facebook, check us out live there. You know, that way you see pictures of these dogs and things. So anyway, stick around and we will be back here in about five minutes. All right. Well, we're still live. Did you see that Annette commented? We will give her a shout out online once we get back on the radio about their pet directives so that they can get that out there.

Lisa

I like it.

John

That's good stuff. And there's actually, there's several of those things. I actually had a client at one time where I prepared a card that had her pet information on it that she could keep in her wallet along with her, like, insurance card and driver's license and stuff like that.

Lisa

Yeah. As I recall, she was a widow or a single lady and she was concerned that if she had a health crisis and she was, you know, rushed to the hospital, that nobody would realize that there was an animal at home that needed to be fed and taken care of. And so she put a little emergency card in her wallet to let someone know.

John

Yeah. So there's all kinds of stuff that you can do as far as that goes. Now, when it comes to the money, it's a whole different thing. You've gotta be much more careful about that.

Lisa

Well, and I don't think we'll talk about this on the radio but I had a client who she wishes to put down her animals at the time of her death. And because she is so concerned that they will be neglected or not cared for to the standard that she cares for them that she's thought it through and decided that she wants those animals put down if she dies and she wants them put down and everyone cremated and mixed all together. And again, John, because it's property, you know, animals are simply property, I think she legally can certainly do that. You know, I know there's a lot of animal lovers who would really recoil at the idea of putting animals down just because their owner died. And I get it. But legally, there's certainly no issue with her making that directive.

John

Yeah, no. That's exactly right. And so, I still waffle on that one as to how I feel about it.

Lisa

Well, I mean, how I personally feel about it, you know, and the bottom-line is, if all of this comes to pass, the lady, you know, will be dead, and whether or not her executor has the animals put down, who knows and who's gonna complain about it if they don't?

John

Right.

Lisa

Anyway...

John

Yeah. Can you appoint somebody to be your animal executioner?

Lisa

It's a little dicey right there, but again, it's property. You know, I guess it's kind of like if you wanted all your furniture stacked up and a match lit and burned up, you could do that too.

John

Yeah, no, it's the same concept. Of course, again, I've always, you know...if I go outside and break a couch in the backyard, nobody gives me any fits. But if you break a dog in the backyard, you get in trouble for it. And I'm fine with that, don't get me wrong, but it still doesn't mesh with the way law treats animals, because if they are property, then how can you abuse property?

Lisa

Right. Yeah, there's a lot of nuance.

John

Right. On the other hand, if you start granting them anything other than property status, you open up a whole nother world of potential issues. And it becomes pretty odd in there as far as, you know...

Lisa

Yeah. No, I remember, earlier this year, there was a video in our community of a gentleman abusing an animal and, yeah, he got investigated, arrested, jailed. I mean, the whole...

John

Yeah, no, yeah, they threw the book at him.

Lisa

And if I put my couch on the front pouch and it gets rained on, nobody is gonna come, you know...

John

Yeah, nobody is gonna come [inaudible 00:28:23].

Lisa

...complain about it. Well, maybe my neighbors, but that's not a legal thing.

John

Right. Yeah. It's not an abuse of couch kind of claim.

Lisa

Yeah.

John

Yeah, I've always found that a little strange. It just doesn't match up with the law or with the way it [inaudible 00:28:40]. Again, I get it from a personal standpoint. You're out there beating the dogs, then somebody else ought to come out and beat you. I'm fine with that. I just don't get it from a legal standpoint.

Lisa

Yeah. All right. Well, we're about to head back on live on the radio, so let's see.

John

Welcome back to "Aging Insight" everybody. This is your host John Ross here with Lisa Shoalmire for the second half of today's "Aging Insight" program where we are talking about estate planning as it relates to your animals, whatever those kind of animals are. And Lisa and I are gonna get into some stuff here, you know, when it comes to leaving money and things like that. But in the meantime, you know, we are doing this live on Facebook and I got a comment from Annette over at Derrickson [SP] Hospice.

Lisa

It was a sponsor, by the way.

John

Who is the sponsor, by the way. And they wanted to pass along that they have a complementary pet directive. It's part of their hospice services. You can list out what your wishes are for the animal, any pets that you might have. If you'd like, it's a free copy. All you've gotta do is give Derrickson Hospice a call. Phone number is 903-793-6350, that's 903-793-6350, and just ask for Annette and she will hook you up with one of those.

Lisa

Well, what I need to ask Annette is, you know, has she filled out one of these? Because I know that she is an animal lover, owner.

John

To that big-eared Corgi of hers.

Lisa

So, yes. Okay. Shout out, Annette.

John

That's right. So let's say you do leave on money to...

Lisa

You wanna set aside some funds because you don't wanna burden someone with the care of your animal, because you know that is a thing, John. Animals do cost money.

John

That's right.

Lisa

There's vet bills, grooming bills, you know, feeding. They get ill. They get into accidents.

John

Sure. They're an expensive process.

Lisa

Yeah, and if you go on vacation, you gotta board them or get somebody to take of them. So a lot of people, they just acquire a pet and they don't really think about the cost. But if you are contemplating your end and they're concerned about your pet, many people want good care for their pet, but they also don't wanna burden that pet caretaker with the costs.

John

That's right. And so, of course, one way to do this, one very simple way, and simple in legal terms doesn't necessarily mean good. It just means simple, right? But this would be, you know, just leave the dog or cat or capybara or whatever it is, and just leave it to a person with some money, right? So, you know, "I hereby give, devise and bequest my platypus, Frank, to Lisa Shoalmire along with the sum of $10,000."

Lisa

Okay.

John

Right. So now, it's a bequest of property, both the platypus and the money, they would go to Lisa. They're yours, but there's no requirement on you that you use the money for the platypus. There's no requirement that you maintain the platypus. You could take the platypus straight to the animal shelter the next day.

Lisa

Release it back. I think I would take the $10,000, fly with the platypus to Australia...

John

To wherever platypi live.

Lisa

...release the platypus back into the world, enjoy vacation, and nobody can stop me.

John

And that's right. So that's the problem with making just a direct bequest is you're not insuring that anything is gonna happen for the benefit of that animal that the animal's care or maintenance is gonna be taken care of or anything like that. So this brings us up to something that may sound a little strange out there but that is the animal trust or pet trust.

Lisa

Pet trust. Yeah. It's a, gosh, pretty well-settled type of little tool that we're using now.

John

Yeah, yeah. You know, in Texas we actually even have a statute on animal trust. It's part of the trust code.

Lisa

So your Texas legislature has spent some time and drafted some laws and passed it through committees and legislative processes to have a pet trust statutory provision.

John

That's right, a statutory provision for leaving money. And of course, again, like, you know, as we've said on this show before, you know, all trusts have three things in common. You've got the person that creates it, that's called the grantor. You have the person who's in charge of it, which is the trustee. And then you have the beneficiary, and that's the person that receives the benefit of the trust. Now, you know, going back to what we had talked about earlier, normally, you couldn't have a beneficiary be an animal because that's leaving property for property. So by creating these animal trusts, they've essentially modified that very longstanding rule. So that you can have a trust where its primary purpose is the care and maintenance of an animal.

Lisa

So, John, so you could create a trust. So you're the settler. You could appoint me as the trustee, and then you could appoint Frank the platypus as the beneficiary of the trust?

John

Yeah, yeah, basically so.

Lisa

Yeah. And so, now, you've left money. I have access to resources through the trust, but in that case, my access to resources is really conditioned upon the care needs and maintenance of Frank the platypus.

John

That's right. And this can be done very simply. You know, a phrase now in somebody's will, a phrase that says, for example, "I leave $10,000 to Lisa for the care of Frank the platypus," I have probably created a trust now.

Lisa

Yes. You have now created...essentially, you've attempted to create a pet trust.

John

That's right. So, you know, going back, I mentioned earlier, I had a case where we had a bequest of $50,000 to a person for the care of a Cocker Spaniel. This was before the animal trust laws came into play. And so that provision just basically became a $50,000 bequest to a lady.

Lisa

Right. And whether she cared for the Cocker Spaniel or not was irrelevant. She got 50,000 bucks.

John

That's right. Now, I think this would be interpreted as actually creating a trust. Not a very good trust, but it would still be a creation of a trust. Now, the actual statutory pet trust, any of those, you can go into a lot more detail there, right? Not only do I say, you know, "Lisa, I'm putting you in charge of this trust for Frank the platypus." I'm putting money into this trust, but I'm also going to establish a whole line of criteria.

Lisa

I have to build a wading pool in my backyard so Frank has a place to swim.

John

Yeah, Frank has to have a place to swim every day, you know, he gets routine massages, and is fed...I don't know, what does a platypi eat?

Lisa

I think fish, [inaudible 00:36:52] maybe?

John

He gets fish of some kind, or whatever, whatever his favorite fish, that's what he eats. So you can actually start lining out a whole bunch of stuff into how you want that animal taken care of and how you want them treated.

Lisa

Yeah. And John, some of our listeners are probably shaking their heads going, "This is just crazy."

John

They're going, "This is silly."

Lisa

But, you know, I can attest that so many of our clients in their later years, you know, those animals are so very important. And frankly, doing the trust really eases their minds that the animal is gonna be cared for. You know, what does peace of mind mean to you?

John

Right, and that's exactly right.

Lisa

And that's why we have all these laws now.

John

Yeah. You know, I mean, hey, if it makes you happy, go for it. Now, you know, one thing on that, when I'm talking about doing something like this, I am not talking about these yahoos dropping millions of dollars. So if you're thinking about setting aside some funds, one thing you do actually have to figure out is how much. How much you're gonna do?

Lisa

Yeah. And, you know, animals, unfortunately, don't live as long as we would like. You know, all of us have lost animals that were just mad that the, you know, lifespan wasn't longer. But, you know, to do some reasonable, you know, estimating of the true cost, you know, because I think some of these people, when they leave these bazillions of dollars to animals, frankly, I think perhaps that's more of a middle finger to the humans in their lives than anything else.

John

Yes, I think that's right.

Lisa

But, yes, you do have to kind of guestimate about what kind of cost this animal is going to burden someone with and, if you want to, try to accommodate that.

John

Yeah. And so you've gotta thing about the life expectancy, because obviously, right, if you've got a mouse, a pet mouse, love the pet mouse...you're looking at me kind of crazy, but people do have pet mice.

Lisa

I was just thinking. I had a cousin once that had pet mice but they really weren't that big of a pet because he also had a pet boa constrictor.

John

Right. Maybe a feedlot is what that was. But, you know, a mouse is gonna have a relatively short life compared to, say, Harriet who was the Galápagos tortoise that Charles Darwin picked up in 1830, which died in 2006.

Lisa

Oh, my goodness.

John

It was estimated to be roughly 175-year-old turtle.

Lisa

We need to be researching how that happens.

John

Yeah. So if you've got a Galápagos turtle and you're trying to set some funds aside, you know, frankly, $10,000 may not get you over the course of 175 years.

Lisa

Okay. So let's dial it to something reasonable. But I've had clients that have had Dachshund dogs, you know, weenie dogs. Dachshunds can live 20 years.

John

Those things will live forever.

Lisa

And, you know, either a big dog, like a big Labrador or something, you know, 12 years. You know, typical. And Dachshunds, they just keep going. Cats live a long time.

John

Cats. And so, yeah, you know, look at your vet bills, look at your food bills and then, you know, make some estimates on life expectancy for that animal, and you can actually start getting up into the many thousands of dollars depending on the type of animal and it's age and things like that.

Lisa

Well, of course, you may get depressed as the animal owner realizing how much you're spending on your animal, or not, I don't know.

John

That's true, that's true. All right. Well, we gotta take one more break. We're gonna come back and we're gonna finish up our discussion of animal trusts and things like that. So stick around. We'll be right back.

Lisa

Yeah, you know, one thing, John, you may have to calculate in daycare expenses.

John

Yeah, boarding?

Lisa

No, like doggy day care.

John

Oh, yeah, yeah. Doggy day care, if you're into such a thing.

Lisa

Yeah, I know, it's the craziest thing I ever heard of and then my own sister got a dog and the next thing I know, she's spending money, 40 bucks a week for a couple of days for this dog to doggy day care.

John

Right. And this is not because they need to have the dog boarded during the day. This is just party time...

Lisa

Socialization.

John

This is just social, party time for the dog.

Lisa

Yeah, my sister said initially that it was to tire the dog out because the dog was pretty young and, you know, you know how young dogs if they get bored, they find something to do, which might mean eat your couch. And so my sister said, "Oh, I just need to take her so she gets tired out." But if that were the case, you would go every day of the week, you know? I don't know, leave the dog outside. But so you may have to calculate in doggy dog care expenses.

John

Yeah, you just might.

Lisa

But, yeah, no, I've had a weenie dog...I think one of my clients' weenie dog lived 21 years, 21!

John

Yeah, those things live forever.

Lisa

Little miniature, sausage, little, tiny short legs.

John

A lot of those little dogs, though, can live 15, 20 years.

Lisa

I mean, her whole face was just white, you know. Cute, and of course, I'm not a big fan of the Dachshund dogs. Their personality, my personality, they don't go together. I'm more of a Lab. But boy, Dachshund owners are a loyal to the breed type of people. They love their weenie dogs.

John

They do love...yeah, they probably, more than just about anybody else, are fanatics about their weenie dogs.

Lisa

Well, I did have a lady, one of my clients who came in and her weenie dog is a certified emotional support animal and his name was Sushi.

John

Sushi?

Lisa

Sushi the weenie dog. And Sushi went everywhere, you know, even into the law office with the client, and pretty laid back, just sat in his little basket that was connected to the lady's walker and chilled out. So it was fine.

John

Well, I've brought a dog to the office before. We have both done that on occasion.

Lisa

Yes, we have.

John

If you've ever been to our office and you've sat on the couch out on the lobby, then you have sat in the place that dog used to lounge about.

Lisa

But only when you weren't there.

John

When I wasn't there. Knew better if I was there, just no respect for anybody else around. All right. We got just a couple more seconds and we'll be back live.

Lisa

Well, welcome back everyone to our final segment today on "Aging Insight." We're talking about pets and providing for pets in an estate plan. And John, we talked about how the law has really transitioned to support pet trust, and to kind of give a little bit of a higher elevation to animals as a beneficiary of an estate plan. And of course, this has really all kind of developed in the last 20 years, but it kind of goes along, John, with the fact that people are treating their pets more like animal children, and the pets certainly become super important to you in your senior years. But there's some things, there's some issues that come up in estate planning for pets that we see that can cause trouble.

John

Sure.

Lisa

So okay, you're one of those folks. You thought about it. You wanna make a plan. We talked about calculating what that pet might need as far as financial resources and setting that aside. But, John, I think it's important not to set aside too much.

John

Right. You know, if you look at some of these other cases like the Leona Helmsley, the people who really inherited were not the dog nor the kids, it was the lawyers that got to fight that battle. When you leave an excessive amount, you're probably gonna end up getting that challenged in some way. Now, I will say that there are two ways to do it, right? You know, you could figure, "Okay, my dog's got a 10-year life expectancy and they're gonna need $1,000 a year in food and maintenance, so that's $10,000." Okay, that's one way. Then, you could also say, "Well, you know what? If I set aside, you know, $100,000, and that's invested appropriately, it should produce enough interest every year to provide for the dog."

Lisa

To provide for the dog.

John

"And then at the time the dog passes, then the rest of it would go to, you know, the animal shelter, or a charity or something like that."

Lisa

Yeah, I wouldn't make it to a beneficiary person.

John

Right. I wouldn't make it to a beneficiary person. I would make to somebody who probably has the animal's interest at heart. So in that case, you can leave a little extra money.

Lisa

Yeah. So all right, looks like we've got a phone call. Let's see if we can manage to get all this working on the air.

John

All right. Think you're online. What can we do for you?

Caller-1

[inaudible 00:47:03]

Lisa

Well, you know, I don't know about a tree, but certainly, I know that people have left money to buildings, you know, in a trust fund for the support of a building. I mean, I think about our historic [inaudible 00:47:28] theater. You know, certainly, people have made...usually, there's a nonprofit or a foundation setting up that particular thing that supports it.

John

Wasn't there some like famous tree over in Alabama or something on a campus?

Lisa

Oh, that was the Auburn, Alabama where seems like there was a gag. They poisoned the tree and...

John

But I mean, that's something that I can see somebody...I can see some, like, super Auburn fan or super Alabama, I don't even know which one, that they might leave money for the care and maintenance of the tree.

Lisa

Sure.

John

I don't know of it for sure, but it seems perfectly reasonable that somebody might try to do that.

Caller-1

[inaudible 00:48:13]

John

Yeah, I remember that as well. So maybe somebody is sitting out there with a will that leaves behind some money for the care of the tree.

Lisa

Some gene slicing to, you know, reproduce the Santa Ana of that tree or something. But, yeah, that's a good...

John

All right, thanks for calling.

Lisa

One thing I love about America, among many things, is that, you know, you can do what you want to with your stuff.

John

You can. You can do whatever you want.

Lisa

And you can be labeled a crazy [inaudible 00:49:02] for whatever it is you wanna do but it's your stuff and you can do it. But, John, I guess our first point there on some issues with pet trusts, don't overfund because that just invites challenges.

John

That's right.

Lisa

You know, in the Leona Helmsley, if she left $100,000 flat out to that dog, nobody would have thought about it. She had millions and millions, $100,000 was a drop in the bucket and the lawyers wouldn't have taken the case. Well, I mean, I guess the lawyer would take the case if they're gonna get paid. But, you know, it probably wouldn't have garnered the type of...

John

But they probably wouldn't have fought over it, you know. And as far as that goes, you know, the second part of this is, be specific. You know, what do you want done with the animal? You know, what kind of care do you want? You know, that was an issue in the contested case I had. That actually started because the lady who was caring for the dog felt that she ought to receive a stipend for boarding, basically, right? That if you were just boarding an animal, you know, you'd pay a boarder $20 a day, she on the other hand is just getting reimbursements for out of pocket expenses.

Lisa

Right. And so that she kind of thought, "Hey, wait a minute. This will says I get 50,000 bucks and it doesn't really have any strings attached, and I have the dog." So, yeah, that did start it all. You know, the other thing, John, is besides, you know, you wanna make sure you're being specific, the other thing is make sure you keep your plan updated because animals don't live as long as we do and sometimes, you know, when people say, "I leave $10,000 to Lisa to care for my Cocker Spaniel, Sadie," well, what happens if Sadie is dead and you've acquired a new Cocker Spaniel named Brandy? Now, if you die, what happens?

John

Right. Especially if you were very specific about, you know, that it was for that dog and not for any dog. And so, yeah, you wanna update these things. You wanna be specific. And this kind of goes to the same thing just in general, right? I mean, this is where you don't wanna have a provision in your will that says, "I leave my 2008 Chevy Silverado, you know, to me because you're probably gonna get rid of that 2008 Chevy Silverado and replace it, you know, in a couple of years with a 2020 Silverado.

Lisa

Right. So we do run into that where people have been very specific including naming the animal, and maybe at the time of their death they do have an animal but it's not "the" animal that they had when they drafted their estate planning documents. So that becomes an issue. What else, John?

John

Well, you know, like going back to that case where they say, "Okay, I'll leave $50,000 to the neighbor for the care of the dog, Sophie," what if Sophie had just died right before? Maybe they were in a car wreck together. So does she get the $50,000 or is it only for the dog? If they don't get the $50,000, then where does the $50,000 go?

Lisa

Right. So, yeah, you always have to have a contingency plan and put in some back up plans. And, you know, I'll sit down with clients and they'll tell me what they want whether it's for their stuff and the kids or their animals. And then, you know, I start asking them, "What if that doesn't happen? You know, what if they're not here?" And they're just like, "Oh, I never thought of that."

John

Right, yeah. And so that's exactly what we're talking about. So you wanna have some backups like that. You wanna have some residuary clause. And I'll tell you, you know, if you're thinking about leaving some actual money, funds, property, things like that for the benefit of an animal, you're gonna want some advice on this. This is not do-it-yourself time. We have seen how expensive those fights are.

Lisa

Yes. They're very expensive when you're not clear. You don't get, you know, some learned experience. Now, John, we've been down that road.

John

We have.

Lisa

We've got some advice.

John

We've been down that road and we don't want you to go down that road. So get you some good advice and that's why you listen to the show. So we'll see you next weekend. And we will also see y'all next time.

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