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Pet Trusts — How to Make Sure Your Pet is Taken Care Of

Pet Trusts — How to Make Sure Your Pet is Taken Care Of

An interview on 93WIBC with Cecelia Neihouser Harper

Our attorney, Cecelia Neihouser Harper was featured in a segment on 93WIBC , Indy’s Mobile News about Pet Trusts and how to ensure your pets are taken care of. Take a listen to the whole show below.

You can also read more in this article.


[Transcript]“93 W I B C. It is Terri Stacy. Well, there is a new four-part Netflix docu-series titled Gunther’s Millions. It began on Wednesday. This is a German Shepherd that reportedly inherited somewhere between 400 and 500 million from a wealthy German Countess in the early 1990s. Well, this story. This story went that the Countess had lost her 28 year old son to suicide and having no other humans in the world.”

“She left this vast fortune to a dog. Um, a press bill Gunther third, the Gunther III is said to be or was to be the richest pet in the world, and he lived the life. So we thought this was an interesting topic, and joining us now to talk about how to leave an inheritance to a pet if you even really can legally is an attorney with BB&C law firm, Cecilia is our guest. Cecilia, how are you? 

“I am wonderful today. How are you?”

“We’re doing fine. And you know, when I first heard this story I thought, oh my gosh, that’s gotta be rare. But the more I looked into it, it’s not so rare at all that somebody left their fortune to a dog or a cat.”

“Right? Well, it’s certainly, it is rare in the sense that we don’t do a whole lot of them, but it’s something that is certainly, it’s, it’s a new concept, especially here in Indiana. And, it’s not quite caught on. Sometimes those new trends take a minute, especially in estate planning to take hold. And it is gonna be for a certain level of clientele.”

“So it’s a little, it’s a little interesting in that it’s been around for several years, and it’s a really, really awesome way to provide for a pet. But we don’t generally find them common in all of our estate plans, but it’s certainly an option when you’re talking to folks and they’ve got, you know, loved ones in the form of furry.”

“Yeah – It’s always a topic of conversation – what are we gonna do, you know, about your pet. Yeah. You know, and that’s what it is. It’s about providing for them, making sure that they, after you are gone, that they still have security in a life and, and food and care.”

“And so you’re telling me that it is legal in Indiana to leave an inheritance to a pet.”

“110%. Yes. And we actually have some statutes that our legislature enacted again around starting in the mid two thousands. And so it’s gonna, it’s not been around for very long, still relatively new. When you look at the span of the law, the law moves rather slowly. Sometimes it’s a little bit even slower to be adapted, so it’s relatively new. But yes, it is, it is an option for those pet owners who really want to make sure going above and beyond, uh, you know, just leaving it to a trusted friend or family member that they really want to provide for that animal. We certainly have that great capability here in Indiana.”

“Is the process, Cecilia, if we wanna leave money for our pets to be cared for? Is the process much just like leaving, leaving the amount in a will? We generally would say you could do that. You could say, you know, I, I live, leave my dog, or my cat or my animal.”

“Generally those are classified as items of personal property. You could certainly leave that to a trusted friend or family member with the hope, the wish, and the desire that they will then take care of your animal. And, and for most people that will work because they have those family members that they certainly trust.”

“And we’re not talking about, you know, maybe a real high price animal, but something that they certainly care about. And so generally folks will, will at least mention their, their pet in that way. You know, maybe they’re horses. Oh maybe they’re cattle. It doesn’t always have to be the little furry guys you think of.”

“It’s, you know, some, I’ve, you know, certainly had some folks that are, feel very, very strongly about their, their equine – their horses, and Yeah, that’s very, that’s very important to them. So, um, yeah, so we could leave in a will in sort of informal, sort of a setting. But the problem with kinda leaving it to a friend or a family member with the hope, the wish, and the desire is that you’re not creating any kind of affirmative duty or action for that family member.”

“So they could, you know, they could say, well, that was your wish, but I wasn’t able to fulfill it. Oh, and so that’s a lot. That’s really what people do cuz they do have faith and trust and confidence in their friends and family members. But in the example that you earlier talked about with the German Shepherd who was given millions.”

“Yeah, as an estate planning attorney, I would certainly not give your hope, faith and wishes  to someone to care for your dog and, and not taking all those millions of dollars. And you wanna make. , you know, that would, that would present an opportunity for someone to, you know, maybe take advantage of that situation.”

“And so in that, in that instance, you certainly would want to bind your representative with you know, a trust document or something more formal that the representative that you are designating for your animal has a duty, has an affirmative duty that they then have to take care of the animal in these ways and be very specific about that.”

“Because you’re talking about a lot of money. Yeah. You’re talking about a lot of money. By the way, this is Cecilia Nay Hauser Harper. She is an estate attorney, BB&C, law firm hereforlife.com is the website. She does this kind of stuff there. “

“A trust. Sure. A pet trust is, are there alt, are there, are there other alternatives to a pet trust? Let’s say that you loved your dog, Cecilia very, very much, and, and it’s time for you to, to leave this earth and you want that dog to be taken care of. What would you do? As an estate attorney, what would you do?”

“Well, I would, first we wanna analyze sort of what type of resources are you leaving your animal. you know, most for most folks just, you know, they don’t, they’re, they’re providing for their kids or, you know, so and so forth. And so, They may not have a lot of funds to leave to a pet. And so if you don’t have a lot of funds leave to a pet, you’re, you’re probably just gonna communicate with a trusted family or family member or friend and say, Hey, look, I’d like you to have my dog, and that person’s gonna say, I’d gladly take your dog.”

“I’ll care for it. I’ll pay for it. It’s probably not gonna be that large of an expense. And so if I was kind of in a regular situation, I might do something like that. But if you, if you’re talking about. You’re talking about leaving a significant amount of money to care for the pet and the pet’s descendants, then you wanna start looking at kind of binding.”

“Those folks so that they’re not just taking the money and, and running, because you know, lots of money does funny things to people sometimes. Yeah. And they may have the best of intentions, but money and, and greed can do crazy things to people. The third option that most people don’t think of, and it’s a really interesting one, is that sometimes different universities, for instance, Purdue University, I believe they still have it, they had a program.”

“And they would, it would, it was some kind of an exchange for if you leave a certain endowment to Purdue and our veterinary association, and, and I, I may not be speaking of this exactly correctly, but it was something along the lines of, you leave some money to them, they will help care for your animal and make sure it’s been cared for correctly and when you pass away.”

“The remainder of those funds goes to that institution. And so I thought that was a really interesting kind of middle ground. And again, I’m not sure I’m reiterating all those facts precisely about the Purdue program. Yeah, but it’s something very similar. And so that kind of gives you a middle place to land if, you know, if you want a little bit more security than just, you know, giving that pet to your friend or your family member. But you’re also probably not realistically in the bracket of creating a large pet. Then there’s some middle ground there for those folks as well.”

“Very good. Very good. Uh, alright, well if you have any questions about the Indiana PET Trust statute, you can certainly contact Cecilia and she is @hereforlife.com. Is that right, Cecilia? Should I give, is that the, the correct website for you, or do you have another way that you would rather be reached?” 

“Yep. That is perfect. That’s our tagline at Bennett, Boehning & Clary – BB&C for short, we’re here for life. Meaning we can help you with all kinds of legal issues, from adoptions to things that happen in the middle of your life, to ending and getting an estate plan and executing your estate. So we’re here for life – hereforlife.com.” 

“Cecilia, thank you. It is such a pleasure to meet you and I hope you will come back. There’s a lot of topics that you cover, I’m sure. So come back and see us soon.”

“Absolutely. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.”

Estate Administration 101: Wills and Trusts

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