Many consider their pet a family member, but in Illinois
there was no way to provide for them if their owners died
--- until now.
A new law takes effect today that allows people to set up
a legal trust to provide for the care of their pets.
State Rep. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville, who co-sponsored the
bill, said the law allows guarantees for the pet's care while
also setting reasonable limitations.
"Money means nothing to a pet, what they need most is
care and nurturing," said Holbrook, who owns a cat named
Nationwide, the average dollar amount left to a pet is about
$25,000, according to Lawyers Weekly USA, but the new Illinois
legislation will allow pet owners of more modest means to
allocate money for its care.
"All you need to do is add a provision in your existing
will leaving, say, $1,000 for the care of the pet, and the
statute takes care of the rest," said Gerry Beyer, an
estate law professor at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.
Besides setting aside the money, a trustee also must be named
to care for the pet.
Before the new law, many pet owners made provisions for pet
care, but it was honor-based and not legally enforceable,
Now, if asked, the trustee must provide proof to a probate
judge that they are caring properly for the pet.
Ledy Van Kavage, an attorney for the American Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Maryville, said she
saw numerous pets come into animal shelter after their owners
"The relatives are very quick to take the money and
dump their mother's beloved cat at the shelter," Van
has prepared about 20 of the honorary trusts for pets, but
expects to see a lot more clients establish legal trusts now
to deal with pet care finances after their deaths.
"A client can provide for the pet's care right up to
the pet's funeral services and be assured their pet will receive
that care," he said.
While pet trusts usually are worked into an existing estate
said a separate trust can be specially set up to care for
pets at a cost of between $300 and $500.
Copyright (c) 2005 The Belleville News-Democrat