In the News


Saturday, January 1, 2005
by Beth Hundsdorfer


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 Murphy.

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, Beyer said.

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 died.

"The relatives are very quick to take the money and dump their mother's beloved cat at the shelter," Van Kavage said.

Chicago lawyer 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 plan, 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



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