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Can You Leave Money to Your Pets in Your Will or in a Trust?

Posted by Chad Seiter | Sep 29, 2022 | 0 Comments

According to Kentucky law, you can leave your property to almost anyone you choose after you die. The only person who can challenge your right to disinherit them is your surviving spouse.  Whether the beneficiaries receive their inheritance pursuant to your will after your estate settles at the end of the probate process or whether they start getting money from a trust even when you are alive, you get to decide who gets what. If your pets are as dear to you as your friends and relatives, you are not the only person who feels this way, and it is understandable to want to be generous to them. Nonhuman animals cannot legally own property, and therefore they cannot inherit assets directly. It is possible, however, to use your estate to ensure that your pets will be cared for after you die by way of a pet trust. If you want to be generous to animals other than the ones you personally befriended, you can also bequeath money to animal-related charities through your will or a trust.  A Northern Kentucky estate planning lawyer can help you designate the beneficiaries of your choice and ensure that they can live in comfort after you are gone.

Are Domestic Animals Assets or Beneficiaries?

While your pets cannot inherit money directly, you can specify in your will who will inherit your pets, just as you can specify who will inherit individual pieces of jewelry or furniture--or in the form of a pet trust!  It is a good idea to indicate who gets to keep your pet if you think that family members will fight over it.  You can also allocate certain assets for the animal's care; in other words, if you paid for a dog walker or horse groomer during your lifetime, you can set aside certain assets in your will or trust toward the animal's expenses and indicate who is responsible for disbursing the money.

The most famous example of an animal benefiting from an estate was a Maltese dog named Trouble, who belonged to the eccentric entrepreneur Leona Helmsley. When Helmsley died in 2007, she set aside $12 million in a trust for Trouble's care, including grooming, food, and security.  She designated Carl Lekic, who had managed one of her hotels, to manage Trouble's care and finances; the money also covered a $60,000 annual salary for Lekic in his capacity as Trouble's caretaker. Lekic ended up returning most of the money to the estate because the dog could not possibly need that much money in its lifetime. If you want to know how much money you will need to set aside for an animal's care, think about its monthly expenses now, and think about the life expectancy for its species and breed.

Contact Darpel Elder Law About Being Generous Toward Family, Friends, and Pets

An estate planning attorney can help you use your estate to provide care for your pets or to support the charitable causes you choose. Contact Darpel Elder Law in Crestview Hills, Kentucky, or call (859) 341-4100.

About the Author

Chad Seiter

Attorney at Law


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