If you worry about what will happen to your pets should you die , you are not alone. Leona Helmsley, New York real estate magnate, dubbed “The Queen of Mean” because of how she treated her employees, died in 2007 and left roughly $12 million to her dog, Trouble. A judge later reduced that amount to $2 million.
Most of our pets, even the spoiled ones, could get by on a lot less. Thanks to a change in the 1990 Uniform Probate Code, most states now allow you to provide for pets in estate plans.
Indiana’s Pet Trust statutes in brief state:
- A trust can be created to provide for the care of a pet during the pet owner’s lifetime.
- The trust terminates on death of the animal; or, if multiple animals are named in the trust, after the death of the last surviving animal
- The pet owner can either name someone in the trust to enforce the terms, or a person can be appointed by the court
- If the court determines the value of the trust exceeds the amount required, it can distribute excessive funds to the owner, if living, or heirs or beneficiaries, as was the case with Helmsley.
Spelled out in the trust should be the names of trustee/alternate trustee (those who look after funds and distribute payments), names of caregivers, description of your pets, level of care to be provided to the pets, how the trust is to be funded, how remaining funds should be distributed after the pet dies, and how to dispose of the body.
An estate planning lawyer can draft a pet trust to ensure your animals are given care in accordance with your wishes.