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Friday, November 09, 2007

Law - Trusts for pets, and other pet law information

"Lawyer Makes It Easier to Provide for Pets After Death" is the headline to an AP story dated Nov. 8th by Mike Nolan. Some quotes:

As a lawyer concentrating in estate planning, Peter Canalia was frequently was asked by clients to set up trusts for their pets.

He's established trusts for dogs and champion racehorses and recently launched a service he hopes will make pet trusts affordable for just about anyone who wants to make sure their dog, cat, parakeet or whatever is cared for after they're gone.

"For many people, a pet becomes a part of your life," said Canalia, who set up a trust fund for his own pet poodle. "The pet becomes as important to you as a child."

The Crete, Ill., resident who practices in Lansing describes Peace of Mind Pet Trust as "the nation's most competitively priced, bona fide pet trust" set up by a licensed trust attorney.

The name was inspired by an unmarried Chicago man who hired Canalia to set up a trust for his dog.

"He said it gave him peace of mind knowing that his pet would be taken care of," the lawyer said.

There are lots of stories about people leaving money in their will for a pet after they're gone and designating a caregiver. The only problem is there's no guarantee that person won't turn around and euthanize Fido, then spend the money on a big-screen TV.

With a pet trust, a caregiver is named, as well as a trustee who'll keep an eye on how the money earmarked for the pet is being spent, Canalia said. The trust can spell out any detail the pet owner thinks is important, from the type of food the pet should be fed to how frequently it should be walked. * * *

Illinois is one of 38 states that allow pet owners to set up trusts, but they're not a need for every pet owner. Often, other family members will step up and care for a pet after the owner dies. * * *

"People have the perception that trusts are just for rich people," he said.

Pet owners don't have to set aside tens of thousands of dollars for their pet, and one option is to buy a fairly inexpensive life insurance policy that names their pet's trust fund as beneficiary, Canalia said.

"How much you set aside in the trust is going to depend on the type of animal it is, its expected life span and estimating how much would be needed annually to care for the pet," he said.

The cost of simply setting up a trust might scare off some pet owners, he said, noting some lawyers charge $1,000 or more for the service. Peace of Mind trusts cost $89 and can be downloaded at www.peaceofmindpettrust.com.

"If you go on to the Internet, you can find pet trusts out there," Canalia said. "The only one I found comparable [with Peace] is five times the cost."

Here is a list of state pet trust statutes, compiled by Gerry W. Beyer, a Texas law prof who also has a page on estate planning for pet owners.

Indiana has a statute at IC 30-4-2-18.

The Canalia article cites a May 22, 2005 NY Times story titled "And to My Dog, I Leave a $10,000 Trust Fund." And of course there is the recent story, "Helmsley's Dog Gets $12 Million in Will," reported in this August 29th, 2007 AP story.

See also this ILB entry from Sept. 3, 2006 titled "New Breed of Lawyer Gives Every Dog His Day in Court " and this one from June 7, 2007 headed "U.S. Attorneys Flock to Animal Law."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 9, 2007 08:43 AM
Posted to General Law Related