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Tampa Estate Planning Attorney > Blog > Estate Planning > Cats Are Better As Beneficiaries Of A Trust Than As Beneficiaries Of A Will

Cats Are Better As Beneficiaries Of A Trust Than As Beneficiaries Of A Will


Everyone who understands the basics of estate law knows that animals cannot be beneficiaries of a will.  Despite this, one often reads news stories about beloved pets that inherited a fortune from their wealthy owners, even if the testator had the wisdom not to say, “My dog Biscuit will inherit 100 percent of my estate.”  There are two reasons for this.  First, probate cases become a matter of public record, so on a slow news day, journalists can just search for probate cases where a dog or cat was the recipient of the decedent’s generosity.  Second, using your will as a vehicle to provide for the care of your pets is a sufficiently error-prone process that, if you do it, the case is likely to result in a legal dispute that makes for delicious clickbait.  By contrast, we will never know just how many pampered pets have received care through a trust after their owners died.  The terms of a trust are a private matter, and they require more detailed instructions about how the trustee should spend the money.  To find out more about setting up a trust to provide for the care of your pets after you are gone, contact a Tampa estate planning lawyer.

The Probate Court Is Not in the Business of Scheduling Furball Medicine Doses and Litter Box Cleanings

Nancy Sauer of Tampa did some things right in how she provided for the care of her cats in her estate plan, but there were enough loopholes that her will, as it was written, ended up with things not going according to her wishes.  In her final years, before her death at age 84, Sauer lived in a large house with seven Persian cats.  Her will indicated that her estate was not to sell the house until the last of the cats had died.  Sauer’s will also indicated a specific amount of money to be used toward the care of each cat.

Several months after Sauer’s death, the probate court ordered the cats’ removal from Sauer’s house and placement in new homes.  A spokesperson for the court said that the court was doing everything possible to keep all of the cats together and was looking for someone who could accommodate seven cats.  The court made its decision based on the Humane Society’s advice that it was not safe for seven cats to live in a house full-time with no humans.  It seems that human visitors came to the house several times per day to feed the cats, but this was not enough to convince the Humane Society that it was a safe environment.

A better solution is to set up a trust to care for pets.  The trust document should provide a salary for the person who feeds the cats, brushes their fur, and changes their litter.  It should include a salary for the pets’ caregiver, who may or may not be the same person as the trustee.  It should also say what happens if there is any money left in the trust after the pets have died.

Contact David Toback About Estate Planning for Proud Cat Ladies

A Central Florida estate planning lawyer can help you use your estate plan to ensure that your pets will remain well cared for after you are gone.  Contact David Toback in Tampa, Florida to set up a consultation.



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