We have all heard stories of the eccentric lady millionaire who left all of her money to her cats. However, if you are planning for your future and are a pet owner, you may wonder how you can care for your animal after you are gone. Until recently in Ohio, pets were considered personal property (in the legal parlance: “chattel,” i.e. a tree or an automobile). As personal property, money or other items could not be left for their care.
In 2007, Ohio passed a law that provides that a pet owner may create a trust to provide for the care of an animal alive during the person’s lifetime. The trust will terminate upon the death of the animal or, if the trust was created to provide for the care of more than one animal alive during the owner’s lifetime, upon the death of the last surviving animal.
The law also provides that the owner may appoint a person to administer the trust. If one is not appointed, the probate court may appoint a suitable person and enforce the trust. The law further provides that a person having an interest in the welfare of the surviving pet may request the court to appoint a different person to enforce the trust or to remove the person appointed.
If this is something you are considering and are wondering how much you should leave in trust for the care of your pet, consider its past basic needs such as shelter, food and healthcare costs. Have a discussion with the pet’s veterinarian about what future care may be needed. The law provides that the property of a trust may be applied only for its intended use and if the court determines that the value of the property in the trust exceeds the amount required for the care of the pet, it may distribute the excess amount to the other beneficiaries of the Will.
If you have any questions about this “Animal Needs” trust or are interested in establishing one, please feel free to call Mike at (937) 748-1004. Even if you have an existing Will, a trust of this nature could easily be added to it by virtue of what is called a codicil, which is simply a fancy name for an amendment of an existing Will.