Puppy Trusts And Cat Wills
Our animals are as dear to us as children and grandchildren, these days, and we spend more time and money on our pets every year. If your animals are likely to survive us, we need to make arrangements for their care and feeding, just like we do for our descendants. Every state except Minnesota allows “pet trusts”, which name a person or organization to take on those care duties. Couples in divorce cases routinely fight like cats and dogs over custody of their animals, and some of them name this “property” in prenuptual agreements. Rich people leave large sums for care of their animals, and sometimes give more to homeless dogs and cats than they do to their wealth, health, or housing impaired human neighbors.
The rich trust settlor has more probems than finding a worthy animal to act as beneficiary, however. A search for trustworthy administrators is as difficult as Diogenes found his candle lit wanderings in Athens were. He was looking for an honest man. You, if you don’t have dog or cat loving children willing to house your Perdita, Buddy, or Mouser without charge, could be setting up the poor pet for a quick trip to the cemetery, and the ever loving caretakers for a happy voyage to Vegas with Fluffy’s farewell funds.
There are several ways around this problem, as there are for finding managers of funds to take care of humans. You can look for (or found and fund, if you are rich enough) an institution dedicated to a service mission that would include care of your pet or pets through their declining years. If you raised sea otters, a seaside aquarium could do the trick. If the animal in question is a dog, then a well established local no-kill shelter with foster homes for animals to be placed and a good record of finding “forever homes” for puppies in their care could help your pet a lot more than an empty house and a few part-time, well paid, and uncaring strangers. The shelter’s buildings, grounds, and general services could and would improve with more money, too.
Institutions are as imperfect as individuals, alas, so you may want to get involved in the adoption process yourself, before you die. A parrot owner who has been “married” by one of these very intelligent birds knows that Polly or Cap’n Jack is likely to live on to 60, 70, or more years old, and also knows that most spouses, children, and other people do not share the level of interest, love, and skill they have in caring for the massive egos and sometimes fragile health circumstances of their avian friends. The owner and friend can join interest groups of others with similar birds, can visit with them over the years, and can make intelligent choices for later care once sincere and kind potential successors have been found. Most of these choices, like those in much of life, work much better as matters of love than of money, documents, or legal judgments.
My law firm has worked with a wide variety of pet owners and charities, as well as for families with and without money for post-death pet care. Give me a call at 1-800-630-4780 if you want to discuss your and your animal’s plans for surviving each other.