When billionaire Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her beloved dog, Trouble, in her will after her death in 2007, it created a range of reaction from snickers to late-night jokes to downright derision. But for anyone who has pets that they consider a member of their family, it is no laughing matter, according to PNC Private Bank Hawthorn ℠, and may require serious planning.
While planning for pets may seem a trivial consideration for families, this level of attention to what is most important to clients and their families, defines the value of family offices and wealth management firms as all aspects of clients’ planning needs are considered.
The law does not recognize animals as individuals, but as personal property. Therefore, people cannot leave money directly to pets, and a gift in a will to pets would, typically, be invalid.
However, according to Kelly Wathen, director of PNC Private Bank Hawthorn in Palm Beach, that can all be avoided by creating a trust, which would allow specific provisions for the future care of pets. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow for pet trusts, but those details vary by state. A pet trust that complies with state law is an enforceable trust that can allow for an owner’s wishes to be carried out.
The type of plan that owners create for their pets depends upon several factors, including the availability of a reliable and trustworthy person to care for the pet and the desire of the owner for their wishes to be honored.
In cases where an owner may not have anyone to care for their pet, they should consider contacting a local humane society or similar organization to arrange a new home for the pet in the event of their death, according to Wathen. But it is critical to contact that organization to confirm that they are willing to take on this responsibility.
The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (“PNC”) uses the marketing name PNC Private Bank HawthornSM to provide investment consulting and wealth management, fiduciary services, FDIC-insured banking products and services, and lending of funds to individual clients through PNC Bank, National Association (“PNC Bank”), which is a Member FDIC, and to provide specific fiduciary and agency services through PNC Delaware Trust Company or PNC Ohio Trust Company. PNC does not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice unless, with respect to tax advice, PNC Bank has entered into a written tax services agreement. PNC Bank is not registered as a municipal advisor under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
“PNC Private Bank Hawthorn” is a service mark, of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
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