Using Your Estate Plan to Protect Your Pets

Posted by on Aug 20, 2019 in Legal News |

Did you know that 68% of households in America have a pet? That’s around eighty-five million families. And this number has increased since the first time the survey, conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, was done in 1988. The first insurance policy for a pet actually was sold just six years prior. The dog from the movie Lassie was the first pet to be insured, as it needed to be in perfect health to be in the film. 

We love our pets, and we want to make sure that we provide for them in every possible way. Even if they can be a little annoying sometimes (this is mainly directed towards cats), they are still adorable and deserve the world. In this post, we’ll talk about how you can use your estate plan to protect your pets.

First, You Can’t Leave Them Property 

Under the law, pets are (*gasp*) considered property. They are not given the same legal status as people, despite how amicably we may feel towards our furry, feathered, or scaly friends. You cannot leave your pet money or property. However, you can use your estate plan to ensure that your pet is taken care of after you die. 

It is a “Just in Case” Thing 

Sadly, humans outlive pets. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include your pet in your estate plan. Something could happen unexpectedly that would leave your pet without an owner. Here are two ways that you can make sure your pet is taken care of in your estate plan. 

1. Make Sure Your Pet Goes to a Good Home 

If you have a family who lives with you, your pet can just go to them. But what if you live alone? Or what if you are the pet’s primary caretaker and your spouse or roommate just isn’t that into the pet? In that case, you should select a replacement owner for your pet in the event that something happens to you. 

Make sure the new owner is someone who understands your pet’s needs. If your pet has unique health issues, include instructions for caring for them. Choose someone who is stable and home enough to give your pet the attention he or she needs. Your pet will undoubtedly miss you, so you’ll want to make sure you pick someone who will help your pet through the grieving process. 

2. Give Resources to the New Owner 

The new owner shouldn’t have to foot the bill alone. Vet care can be expensive, even if it is just a routine checkup and appointment. You can set up a trust or a gift to the new owner that will convey them money under the condition that they use it for care of the pet. Conditional trusts are usually valid unless they are contrary to public policy (i.e. they are wildly out of the bounds of social permissibility). An example of something that would not be allowed would be a restraint on marriage. Check with your estate planner to ensure your conditional gift is permitted. If it’s money used for a specific purpose attached to the conveyance of the pet, that should be valid. 

A Quick Anecdote from History 

This article has been somewhat of a bummer, so we will leave you with a short, oddball story from the annals of history. 

Leona Hemsley, a real estate mogul who owned hotels all across the world, had a dog named Trouble. When she died, she left trouble $12 million, making him the richest dog in the world for a brief period of time. Trouble passed away at the ripe old age of twelve (84 in dog years), but not before becoming the brief recipient of $12 million. The gift was challenged almost immediately by Hemsley’s relatives, and a judge nullified the gift, unfortunately for trouble. But, rest assured that a dog was a millionaire for at least a brief time. 

While you can’t leave your dog (or cat) a bunch of money like Leona Hemsley, you can ensure that they are taken care of it in the future. Include your pets in your estate plan to make sure they’re provided for if something happens to you.

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Back to School!

Posted by on Aug 13, 2019 in Legal News |

It’s almost time for your kids to go back to school. For you, that might be a relief. For the kids, hopefully they’re excited (or at least willing to give the new school year a chance). With kids heading back to school, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to protecting and providing for your children in your estate plan. 


Do you have a plan of guardianship set out in your estate plan, in the event that something happens to you? If you have minor children, this is a good idea. If something happens to you and your spouse, make sure you have a plan in place for their care. Pick a guardian who will take care of your kids’ day to day needs, as well as the big-picture stuff. Ask your proposed guardian first to make sure they are on board. It is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly or decided in the spur of the moment.

College Savings 

College is expensive, pretty much anywhere you go. It’s never too early to start saving up for the expenses that college entails. The IRS is sympathetic to parents who are trying to save up for their kids’ college, and they allow you to use 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged savings plans, to save for college. When you put money in your 529, you get a tax break. The breaks vary depending on your state, but they’re preferable to setting aside a regular portion of your income in another savings account, which would just tax it as regular income. 

Things A Young Adult Should Do 

This post isn’t just for minors. Your kid might be preparing to enter college and take on the world as a young adult. At age eighteen, there are decisions your kid should make to ensure that he or she has at least some type of estate plan. It’s never too early to think about an estate plan, securing a power of attorney, or other, similar ventures. Though it might seem young, it will come in handy in the worst case scenario.


When you set up a trust, you (the settlor) gives legal title to property to a trustee, who keeps it for the benefit of the beneficiary, who has equitable title to the property. This trust is a good way to give an inter vivos (in-life) gift while avoiding probate court after you pass on. A trust is an option for anyone looking to do something different with a gift that isn’t in a will. 


If you’re using a will to create a trust or giving a gift in your estate plan, that is a good way to provide for your kids. Make sure to consult with an estate planning attorney to make sure that the transfer is done properly. It might be tempting to create a will using a “fill in the blank” service, but there is a lot of room for error on those. One misplaced signature, for example, and half your provisions might not come in. It’s best to consult with an estate planner.

New Babies 

This is not to say that your kids are going to be having kids! But, while on the topic of children, if there are new babies in your family you want to create a gift for or include in your will, you should do so sooner rather than later. 

With back to school season in mind, your student, whether they’re a young kindergartener or someone about to leave for college, deserves all the protection you can give them in your estate plan.

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How Time Flies! Pre-season Is Here!

Posted by on Aug 7, 2019 in Legal News |

The NFL pre-season is upon us! The NFL pre-season is a great way for teams to scope out their favorite players, determine who can come off the injury list, see how the roster will be organized, and essentially get everything ready for the upcoming season-to-be. If you’re an NFL fan, you know that this means that your favorite time of the year is close. If you’re not an NFL fan, it’s still fun! It means that fall is here, almost, and that brings with it all the amazing things that come with the year’s second-to-last season.

When you think of the pre-season, you think of a preparedness plan that NFL coaches are making for the big event. In a way, estate planning is somewhat of a pre-season. Here are your core components: 

A Good Offense

Your attack plan is always important. You want to have a formidable offense. In the context of the NFL, this means a tough O-Line, strong receivers, and, of course, a star quarterback. For the rest of us non-NFL’ers in estate planning, a good offense means an affirmative plan of action when it comes to dividing up your assets and determining who your beneficiaries will be. 

You should attack asset division in an organized fashion, whether you’re gifting assets in an inter vivos trust so as to avoid going through probate or assigning monetary gifts to your family to be paid from any residuary in your estate. 

An Even Better Defense 

Of course, you can’t have offense without defense. In estate planning, your best defensive plan is to prepare for eventualities that may arise, such as sickness, death, or incapacitation. When you’re incapacitated, that means that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Maybe you’re unconscious or too sick to be responsive. Either way, having documents in place such as a healthcare directive or people in place like a POA will ensure that your healthcare and financial decisions are made responsibly and in accordance with your wishes. 

Who’s Your Head Coach? 

Trick question: you are! And you shouldn’t forget that. When you’re preparing your estate plan, make sure that you’re acting in accordance with your own wishes and what is best for your estate. Remember, this is your estate plan. Make sure that you pick a POA who is responsible and knowledgeable, not just the first person who asks you.

Who’s Your Backup QB?

Speaking of a POA, your power of attorney definitely qualifies as your backup quarterback. They are fit individuals over the age of eighteen, of sound mind, and with specific duties who make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you become sick or ill. You can also appoint them as the executor or executrix of your estate after you die, which means that they wind up the estate and handle property division.

Keeping Your Roster Updated 

Coaches in the NFL change their rosters all the time. They know that things don’t always stay the same. Players get injured, suspended, or stop performing well. Just like the NFL coaches, you need to be prepared to change things in your estate plan if necessary. Make sure to keep it updated. If you see that there is a change in the family (a divorce, a new child, etc.) that requires adjustment, do it sooner rather than later.

As you can see, there are a lot of parallels to be made between the pre-season and preparedness in estate planning. When you’re thinking of ways to organize your life and get prepared, estate planning should be at the top of your list.

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