When you set up a trust for the benefit of a minor or an adult who cannot handle his or her own financial affairs for one reason or another, a trustee administers the funds. The trustee is a fiduciary who is bound by law to take actions that serve the best interests of the beneficiary.
You may be surprised to hear that not all trust beneficiaries walk on two legs. In fact, some high-profile celebrities have created well-funded trust funds for the benefit of their dogs.
This would include Oprah Winfrey, who has reportedly set aside $30 million for her multiple dogs. The ageless actress Betty White has a golden retriever named Pontiac. $5 million has been conveyed into a trust that will benefit Pontiac. Majel Roddenberry, the wife of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry left behind $4 million for her dogs after she died in 2009.
Different people would have different opinions about these lavishly funded pet trusts. However, even if you aren’t a millionaire a pet trust could be a good choice for you if you are concerned about predeceasing your dog, your cat, or another type of pet.
With these trusts you can name a successor or secondary trustee who would inherit anything left in the trust after the death of the pet. You leave behind instructions in the trust agreement, and the trustee that you choose administers the resources for the benefit of the pet.
An Interesting Estate Planning Tale
While we are on the subject of pets, we would like to share a story that is quite interesting, and it has a happy ending. Leaving a bequest to a nonprofit organization can be quite rewarding when you are planning your estate. Many people are moved by certain causes and they want to do what they can to lend some support.
Clearly, many of us are animal lovers, and unfortunately there are innumerable animals who are in shelters. Some of the shelters are privately operated by well-meaning people, and one of these exists in Collinsville, Oklahoma.
The shelter we are referring to is Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven, which was founded by Susan Babbitt. She states that the no-kill shelter consistently has a hard time making ends meet. They have to organize fundraisers almost every month.
Much to her surprise Babbitt was informed by a law firm that her shelter was left a bequest in the amount of $188,981.03 by a woman named Mary Kay Thomas. This was a mind-boggling windfall for the strapped shelter.
After experiencing that incredible high, an equally incredible low came along next. Babbitt was informed by the law firm that they had made a mistake. The bequest was not intended for the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven in Collinsville, Oklahoma. It was supposed to go to an animal shelter in Collinsville, Illinois.
While it must have been difficult for Babbitt to get over the bad news, the situation actually yielded positive consequences for her shelter. Babbitt received a $12,000 donation from the law firm that made the error, and news stories about the mix-up spread the word about the shelter and its financial struggles. This has resulted in a number of additional donations.
Attend an Upcoming Estate Planning Seminar!
We can definitely help if you want to set up a pet trust, but this is not something that most people are going to have to think about. There are many important estate planning topics that you should understand when you are considering your legacy, and we are offering some opportunities for you to build on your knowledge.
Our living trust attorneys are holding a number of seminars in the near future. They are absolutely free to attend, but we do ask that you register in advance, because space is limited. You can visit our seminar page to see the schedule and obtain registration information. We urge you to attend the session that fits into your schedule, because people that go to our seminars are always very happy that they did.
Of course, if you would like to sit down and have a one-on-one discussion with one of our living trust attorneys, we would be more than glad to accommodate you. You can click this link to send us a message requesting a consultation appointment, and if you would like to speak over the phone, we can be reached at 586-493-7661.