We have all heard of so-called “trust fund babies.” These are children that are born into wealthy families who are beneficiaries of a living trust or some other type of trust.
When you set up a trust for the benefit of a minor or an adult who cannot handle his or her own financial affairs for one reason or another, a trustee administers the funds. The trustee is a fiduciary who is bound by law to take actions that serve the best interests of the beneficiary.
You may be surprised to hear that not all trust beneficiaries walk on two legs. In fact, some high-profile celebrities have created well-funded trust funds for the benefit of their dogs.
This would include Oprah Winfrey, who has reportedly set aside $30 million for her multiple dogs. Majel Roddenberry, the wife of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, left behind $4 million for her dogs after she died in 2009.
Different people would have different opinions about these lavishly funded pet trusts. However, even if you aren’t a millionaire, a pet trust could be an option if you are concerned about predeceasing your dog, your cat, or another type of pet.
You fund the pet trust (millions are not required) and leave behind instructions in the trust agreement. The trustee that you choose would be legally compelled to honor your wishes and use the resources for the care of the pet. A successor beneficiary that you name when you establish the trust would assume ownership of the remainder after the death of the animal.
An Interesting Estate Planning Tale
While we are on the subject of pets, we would like to share a story that is quite interesting, and it has a happy ending. Leaving a bequest to a nonprofit organization can be quite rewarding when you are planning your estate. Many people are moved by certain causes, and they want to do what they can to lend some support.
Clearly, many of us are animal lovers, and unfortunately, there are innumerable animals who are in shelters. Some of the shelters are privately operated by well-meaning people, and one of these exists in Collinsville, Oklahoma.
The shelter we are referring to is Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven, which was founded by Susan Babbitt. She states that the no-kill shelter consistently has a hard time making ends meet. They have to organize fundraisers almost every month.
A number of years ago Babbitt was informed by a law firm that her shelter was left a bequest in the amount of $188,981 by a woman named Mary Kay Thomas. This was a mind-boggling windfall for the strapped shelter.
After experiencing that incredible high, an equally incredible low came along next. Babbitt was informed by the law firm that they had made a mistake. The bequest was not intended for the Ward-Wiseman Animal Haven in Collinsville, Oklahoma. It was supposed to go to an animal shelter in Collinsville, Illinois.
While it must have been difficult for Babbitt to get over the bad news, the situation actually yielded positive consequences for her shelter. Babbitt received a $12,000 donation from the law firm that made the error, and news stories about the mix-up spread the word about the shelter and its financial struggles. This resulted in a cascade of additional donations.
Attend an Upcoming Estate Planning Seminar/Webinar!
We can definitely help if you want to set up a pet trust, but this is not something that most people are going to have to think about. There are many other important estate planning topics that you should understand when you are considering your legacy, and we are offering some opportunities for you to build on your knowledge.
Our attorneys are holding a number of seminars that will be streamed through the Internet in the near future. They are absolutely free to attend, but we do ask that you register in advance, because space is limited.
You can visit our seminar page to see the schedule and obtain registration information. We urge you to attend the session that fits into your schedule, because people that go to our seminars are always very happy that they did.