When a celebrity passes away, Georgia will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place. With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.
At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter. Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper. However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.
How Pet Trusts Work
Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind. Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep. There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust. In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated. The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit. An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.
Better Than a Will
While your Georgia pet trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust. Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work. Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.
The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons Georgia will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust. What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker. Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.
By Steve Worrall, Atlanta estate planning attorney
As an Atlanta estate planning attorney, I know Generation Y has a lot to think about…starting their careers, buying their first home, starting a family. All of these things are beginnings, so it’s a rare day when someone in this generation wants to think about The End. But there are 4 reasons that they might need to…
A lot of people think that youth is an excuse for putting off doing a will or trust. But estate planning is not just about planning for your death. It is also prepares you in the event you experience an incapacitating injury and are unable to make your own financial or medical decisions. While the odds are certainly in your favor that you will not need an estate plan, you should still consider these four scenarios…
1. You need a plan in the event that you become disabled or incapacitated.
Unfortunately tragedies happen every day. And you are not immune to them because you are young. If something happens to you and you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your own financial, legal, and medical affairs you’ll need to make sure that there are basic documents in place such as a medical directive, power of attorney and HIPAA authorization so someone can.
2. You need to pass your assets.
You might be asking, “What assets?” Even if you do not yet own your own home, you need to consider IRAs, retirement accounts and life insurance accounts offered through your employer. You need to make sure that beneficiaries are named in the right way to make sure that the people you want to leave them to get maximum benefit.
3. You need to name guardians for your kids.
If you have children, you simply must name guardians. You should be the one who decides who will raise them if you are no longer around. You do not want this decision left to squabbling relatives or to a court system who doesn’t know you or your child.
4. You need to plan for your pets.
If you have a pet, chances are they are a big part of your life. They are totally devoted to you and also totally dependent on you. Have you stopped to think what might happen to them if something were to happen to you? If you want to make sure your companion is cared for if the unexpected happens, you could choose to put together a plan for their continued care. The plan may include directions about feeding, medical care and other needs along with funds necessary to provide for your pet’s support and to compensate the caretaker.
The scenarios above are just a few to consider when deciding if you need a will or trust. If you are in the Atlanta area, I encourage you to talk with an Atlanta and Marietta wills and trusts lawyer. Only then will you have the peace of mind of knowing that you are fully protected.