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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dealing with pets in estate planning: Who will care for your pet?


Detroit estate planning attorneys Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth Carrie have just published a comprehensive yet concise guide to estate planning for pet owners which is "must" reading for every pet owner.
Who Will Care When You're Not There? Estate Planning for Pet Owners explains in plain English why planning for your pets is necessary, the issues that must be addressed, and the alternative solutions.
It also includes a detailed fill-in Pet Information Sheet and Pet Trust Drafting Checklist, to provide for more efficient implementation of the plan and keep legal costs down.
The discussion covers pets of all types, including not only cats and dogs, but also parrots (which can live up to 100 years), and large animals such as horses.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4-6 million pets are euthanized from shelters each year, many of which are due to failure of the deceased pet owner to make proper provisions in his or her estate plan.
"Leaving cash and the pet to a relative simply may not work," says Kass. One fellow left his cat and $5,000 to a nephew "to take care of the cat." After the man died the nephew came to the Executor and demanded the $5,000.
"Where is the cat," asked the Executor? "I took care of it," replied the nephew." He had the cat euthanized.
Simple solutions often are not the best.
The Will was ambiguous, the nephew was the wrong choice, and the uncle's intentions were clearly not implemented.
Kass and Carrie have helped many clients make the necessary arrangements for the future welfare of the pets, in the case of disability or emergency, or should the pets outlive the pet owner.
Though most pet owners do not include their pets in their estate plans, when asked if they would like to do so, a surprisingly large number say they would.
According to Anna Scott, Chair of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, planning with a pet trust is "something many people are concerned about but don't do because they don't know where to start."
Kass and Carrie wrote this book to fill that gap. According to animal law expert Prof. David Favre of Michigan State University College of Law, the book is "...comprehensive yet easily understood...I have never seen as clear a road map for the future of our pets."
Since many non-lawyers are intimidated by legal guides, the book includes 14 full-color illustrations by nationally known animal artist, Jill Flinn, and inspirational quotes, to lighten it up. It looks more like a coffee table book than a legal guide.
"We intend to draw in the pet owner by the attractiveness of the book," says Kass, "and once they begin flipping through it they will see the important issues they need to address."
The book answers these fundamental questions:
- Why you must plan for the future of your pets if something happens to you.
- Why planning for your incapacity, unexpected absences and emergencies is as important as planning for your death.
- Who are the key players in planning for your pets' welfare, and how to choose them wisely.
- How to determine the right level of care to be provided, how much money to provide, and when to fund it.
- What are the legal ways to plan for your pets' future welfare, and how to plan in any state, including an analysis of the law applicable to pet trusts in the 50 states.
- How to minimize taxes and avoid surprises in your planning.
- How pets show grief on loss of an owner, and how to obtain grief support after the loss of a pet.
- How to memorialize your pet, and leave a legacy.
- How to implement the plan, weighing the pros and cons of using an online document preparation service or an experienced pet planning attorney.
About the book: Who Will Care When You're Not There? Estate Planning for Pet Owners by Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth A. Carrie
Publisher: Carob Tree Press, LLC

About the author:
Kass, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School (JD, cum laude) and New York University Law School (Masters of Law in Taxation) has practiced law as an estate planning and tax attorney for over 30 years, and is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He previously published a best-selling layman's guide to settling an estate, "What Do We Do Now? A Practical Guide to Estate Administration for Widows, Widowers and Heirs."
Carrie earned her law degree and Masters of Law in Taxation from the University of Florida Frederic G. Levin College of Law. She is also an estate planning and tax attorney, and a long-time pet owner. Her relationship with and dedication to her German Shepherd provided the impetus for this book, so that other pet owners could become aware of their responsibilities, understand the critical issues in planning for their pets' welfare, and be prepared to implement practical solutions.
Both practice law as members of the Detroit law firm of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker, PLLC.


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