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30 December 2001 Issue
Providing For Your Companion Animals

Source: Fall, 2001 issue of "The Caroline Earle White Society" of the AAVS.
Visit them online at: http://www.aavs.org 

Most of us outlive our pets, but as September 11th reminds us, we need to make plans for our pets should disaster strike.

No matter what your age, making a provision for your companion animals by establishing a will or living trust requires a competent attorney in your state or legal jurisdiction. Taking this step is essential to ensure that your wishes for your companions' care will be met. (Remember also at this time to draft a "Durable Power of Attorney," and "Living Will" to assist in your own care should you be incapacitated.) This is not bad luck, it's good sense and peace of mind!

If you do not designate a person to leave your animal to, your animal may end up in the hands of someone incapable or unwilling to provide care. If you cannot find an individual you feel comfortable with, you may want to contact an animal [care] organization that would be willing to foster your animal until a suitable adopter becomes available.

Another issue to consider is whether or not to leave a sum of money or other assets to the designated caregiver to be used to care for the animal. This is accomplished by specifying that the money [be] bequeathed to that person for the animal's care. This is considered an "honorary trust." Moderator's Note: While Federal legislation is pending, the law in the U.S. currently does NOT recognize animals as legal entities to whom one can leave money or possessions; therefore an individual (human) or organization must be named as trustee on behalf of the animal.)

If you are leaving your animal to an [animal care] organization, and not a specific person, other legal steps need to be taken and you need to consult an attorney. (Moderator's Note: You do need to consult an attorney as the law for wills and trusts is very tricky, and varies state by state and a "do it yourself" job for this is not appropriate.) Although "honorary trusts" are unenforceable by the animal, they are a recognized and useful way of providing for the care of a companion animal. The only real concern with honorary trusts is finding a trustee with the honor to abide by your wishes.

The following is an example of the language which a lawyer might include in your will or living trust (again, consult with a lawyer in your state, or jurisdiction, as what is accepted as "legal and binding" in court differs widely depending on where you live):

I give my German Shepherd, "Sandy" to my cousin, Tommy Goodacre. If Tommy Goodacre is unwilling or unable to accept Sandy, I give Sandy to my friend, Penny Trueheart. If Penny Trueheart is unwilling or unable to accept Sandy, my estate executor shall place Sandy in a home where Sandy will receive proper care in a manner similar to how Sandy was cared for during my lifetime. Should my estate executor be unable to locate a loving home for Sandy, then Sandy shall go to a suitable animal care organization. My estate executor shall fully cooperate with the animal care organization in finding an adoptive situation for Sandy. It is my desire that the adoptive situation be in a loving home determined to be in the best interest of Sandy. OPTIONAL PROVISIONS: My estate executor shall distribute the sum of $___________ to the person who accepts Sandy for the purpose of paying expenses associated with Sandy's care. If an animal care organization is called upon by my estate executor to assist in the placement of Sandy and such organization is a qualified 501(c)(3) organization, my estate executor shall distribute a cash gift of $___________ to such organization.

Making arrangements like these for your companion animals can assist in ensuring that, in the event of your death or incapacitation they will continue to be safe, happy, and well-

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