Is a Pet Trust Part of Your Estate Plan?

Is a Pet Trust Part of Your Estate Plan?

A "pet trust" is a legal arrangement under which funds are set aside for a pet's care and designates a trustee to fulfill the owner's wishes. These trusts have become very popular among rich clients, typically without children. Actress Caryn Rosenthal, a New Yorker who takes frequent trips to Bermuda and leaves her dog Jax-a mixed breed who scoots around on wheels because he can't use his hind legs-in the care of her family. But she worried about her absences, so she set up a trust if she passes away before Jax.

Other examples include the president of Guardians of Rescue, who recently purchased a $500,000 life insurance policy for his three cats - Bo, Dexter and Fin - and his dog. The policy includes regular masseuse appointments for the dog. Of course, leaving millions of dollars to your pooch (or cat or bird) can ruffle family feathers.  Family battles can break out when parents leave more money to their pets than to their children.

And as we saw with Trouble, who inherited $12 million but lost $10 million of that in court, the disputes can become costly legal battles.  To avoid this,  attorneys recommend keeping the trusts realistic-say, to $50,000 or so.

Is this an abomination? Perhaps. But it is no different from all the other outrageous expenses people now lavish on their pets-from organic beef dinners to $5,000 diamond-studded collars. And for some pet owners, like the buyer of the $1.5 million mastiff purchased by a wealthy Chinese buyer, pet trusts and insurance policies are financially (if not emotionally) prudent.

View more information from Marc J. Soss at and

Marc Soss' practice focuses on estate and tax planning; probate and trust administration and litigation; guardianship law; and corporate law in Southwest Florida.  Marc is a frequent contributor to LISI and has published articles and been quoted in the Florida Bar, Rhode Island Bar, North Carolina Bar, Association of the United States Navy, Lawyers USA, Military.Com, Forbes.Com, and CNN Business. Marc also serves as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve.


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