Leona Helmsley created the most famous pet trust of all time when she left $12 million to her dog (which died earlier this month). One does not have to be a multi-millionaire to leave funds for the care of an animal after death. However, one should be careful in selecting the right person to care for the animal – the caregiver should not be motivated solely by money.
In one instance, a maid and butler were provided free room and board as long as they cared for a cat. The vet initially estimated the cat to be 8 years old. The second time the vet saw the cat, he thought it was 4 years old. The third time he saw it, he estimated the cat to be one year old. As the co-resident of a house with a cat resembling the Purina Cat Chow cat, I can attest to the physical similarity of most cats. A more tightly drawn test pet trust wold have prohibited the maid and butler from replacing the decedent’s cat with younger versions.
With the $5.25 million unified credit negating estate tax planning for most individuals, the use of pet trusts in estate planning is one more example of estate planning going to the dogs (and cats).