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Discussion Starter #1
DH and I will be doing our first will soon and we wanted to make provisions for our dog. We would like a rescue org to step in and take over our dog if anything were to happen to both of us. There will obviously be a sizable amount bequeathed (is that the right word, not sure) along with the dog. We are clueless about how to do this right. What is the process? Do we contact the rescue group first? Do all rescue groups accept such cases? What pieces of information has to be mentioned in the will? How does the rescue group get notified? Any insights will be highly appreciated. I know, morbid subject but needs to be dealt with. Been putting this off for a while under the excuse of not having the above information ready. We don't want to rely on the "expertise" of the lawyer in pinning down these details.

PS: If any of the WNY rescue groups have experience with this, please PM me!
 

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I have been thinking about that too
If B is around and something was to happen to myself and DH
he'd go to my trainer for sure I'd know he'd be well taken care of
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you, Jean! They do have some nice templates to work off of. Does BDBH take over orphans? I guess I would feel more comfortable including an org that so many on this forum know and trust.
 

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Don't really know your situation, but I like the idea of a rescue group but didn't know how to go about involving them either. Great idea!
Our situation: Neither my husband or I have any family in same state or really able to help if something happened to us. We have multiple pets. We decided to give our house/assets to the person named in our will providing the care for our pets in the house.
I was just so worried about what would happen to my dogs *IF* something were to happen to me or my husband. Being that we have several animals, I have friends/family willing to take one of my dogs or the other, but I wanted to keep their lives the same as much as we could if possible. I just needed to find someone to move in & love & care for them.
I'll be interested to read the responses you get.
 

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I know Rosa (shilohsmom) was working on getting some more links together in addition to the Blue Moon one, which is a good read. Also if you don't know of any local rescues, you can contact them with questions, I am sure.

As always make sure if you work with a rescue that they do all reference checks and home checks.

UCONN-I have forwarded your post to Darcy for review/response.
 

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Thanks for the reminder. I've just been so busy. I will make this a priority and get something posted real soon. In the meantime, bluemoonmeadows is an excellant source.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Have you guys had any experience working with Blue Moon Meadows? How was it?

DH and I are in our 30s, so hopefully we won't kick the bucket anytime soon
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but one never knows. We didn't want our dog (Wolfie or future dogs) to be kept in limbo because of that. What we would ideally like is for the rescue to find a loving home for the dog (with home visits as Jean said). The money will be used to maintain the dog until a suitable home is found, the remainder to be used by the rescue as they see fit.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Originally Posted By: Furonthefloor We decided to give our house/assets to the person named in our will providing the care for our pets in the house.
Here's the thing though, once the property has been transfered, is there any way of guaranteeing that any wishes in the will are actually carried out?
 

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Originally Posted By: UConnGSD
Originally Posted By: Furonthefloor We decided to give our house/assets to the person named in our will providing the care for our pets in the house.
Here's the thing though, once the property has been transfered, is there any way of guaranteeing that any wishes in the will are actually carried out?
This is what I wonder about pets in general. I don't have a will, but I already have arrangements for my dogs, both in the event that I die and if DH and I die. I'm too much of a control freak to trust people to carry out my wishes or to trust a rescue with my dogs.
 

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I've thought about this and Kacie could go pretty much with anyone as long as she is shown love and compassion(she would probably stay with one of my kids).
Onyx ~NOT, she would have to be placed carefully, that thought really scares me. I wouldn't want her to go back to her breeder.
And if something happened to only me(not DH) Karlo would go back to his breeder to be re-homed, so he could have a chance to excel in whatever venue. If he was left w/ DH, he wouldn't have that chance.

If the breeder couldn't take him back for whatever reason, I would want one of the other owners of the breeder to enjoy my wonderful boy, I would trust any one of them with him as they have been screened by the breeder and have the same passion for the breed as I do.
We have an estate plan, but the dogs, cats and birds are not included. My African grey will outlive me, I'm sure.
 

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I showed Justin this post and asked for his thoughts…and they were more extensive than I anticipated. His response below:

“As both a tax attorney and a GSD-owner, I am really glad to see this topic mentioned.

My chosen line of work deals with two things that in the United States seem to be inescapable: death and taxes. And just as UConn said, many people see this topic as morbid, and accordingly they avoid these types of topics of discussion and even thought. All too often I have clients that tell me they didn’t do their estate planning earlier or didn’t open all those letters from the IRS because they didn’t want to think about it. I have had days where at every estate planning document signing the clients’ have broken down and cried. This is a weighty subject; there is no way around it. At the same time, you would not believe how many of these same clients tell me later how they are happy to have peace of mind because they know that their spouse, significant other, family members, or friends will now be taken care of when they pass away.

That is just in the human world. Many see that our pets need planning, too.

I have seen it first-hand. A few months ago a probate and guardianship attorney in my office brought me in to talk to one of his clients about a tax issue. This client was in our office because his parent had passed away and the other attorney was handling the probate. I finished my meeting and went back to my office, and maybe fifteen minute later I was called back in. You see, I am called in on meetings with other lawyers’ clients typically for one of two reasons: taxes or animals. As well as being known as one of the tax guys in the office, I am also known as the German Shepherd guy that likes to let the dogs bite him on his weekends and cuts-out early occasionally to serve on a Humane Society board. It turned out the deceased parent had a cat that had not been planned for by the attorney that drafted the will (not from our firm); so, the child needed to find something to do with the cat. Luckily for this cat, the child was willing to take it in and would never consider turning it in at a shelter; however, when I last checked (today) the child is still looking for a home for the cat because the current situation, while far from the worst case scenario, is still not ideal.

Not every animal is so lucky – that is why planning matters.

At the same time, even the best laid plans can go awry.

Celebrities are great for tabloids and entertainment news in life, and after death they often make life interesting for trusts and estate lawyers. If all of our acronym, Internal Revenue Code, and latin-laced legalese doesn’t give someone a thrill, celebrity trusts and estate issues usually give us a chance to talk to clients about something they may have some interest and give a starting point of common ground.

Leona Helmsley, billionaire and of “Only the little people pay taxes” fame, brought the idea of caring for your pet after death to the fore of many more people’s minds when she left $12 million to her Maltese named Trouble. I would assume that the drafting attorney was top-dollar, but even in this case the wishes of Helmsley were not upheld: Trouble only gets $2 million for her care (emphasis on “only”) and of the $5 to $8 million that Helmsley specified to go to primarily promote the welfare of dogs, a court has ruled that the trustee is not bound to give only to dog-related charities (so far, about $1 million has gone for the benefit of dogs).

Here are some articles on the Helmsley matter and they also give some good ideas of what to look for when planning for a pet.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/block/2007-09-03-pet-trust_N.htm
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202431060568
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/nyregion/26helmsley.html

Also, here is a link to an article from two weeks ago that has become my “go-to” article for clients with pets:

http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/13/pet-trusts-will-helmsley-personal-finance-protect-your-pet.html

Part of my philosophy on the way I practice law is to offer my clients information and options. Ultimately, it is the client’s decision on what should be done.

In the world of planning for pets there are several very general options:

(1) Do nothing
(2) Something informal
(3) Outright conditional disposition or gift
(4) Outright gift or disposition to vet, shelter, rescue, or other care center
(5) Contract or agreement
(6) Statutory pet trust
(7) Traditional trust

The gifts have both inter vivos (here is some of that Latin I alluded to earlier – referring to a transfer in life) and testamentary (at death) components. Also, the trusts can either take effect in life or at death as part of a will. Furthermore, some of these options can provide for your pet if you are incapacitated or unable to take care of the pet, while others will not. Some many take time to go into effect, while others are much faster. Some options will provide oversight, others will not. Costs may also vary. And please, don’t even get me started on the different possible income, estate, and gift tax impacts.

Now, do you need a lawyer to help you plan for your pets? It is really up to you. Being an attorney I will freely admit that many people don’t use attorneys or accountants to do their wills and taxes and never walk into our offices with problems; however, at the same time some of the most frustrating cases for me are people that are now clients because of mistakes made when they tried to do a “do it yourself” estate plan or tax return. That is a whole other discussion, but from experience I can just say be careful when doing your own planning, taxes, or anything outside of your expertise for that matter. I don’t try to practice criminal law or be my own surgeon, so caution is the best course when possible. Just as if you were to decide to perform your own appendectomy then you would consult the anatomy books (I hope), if you decide to do your own estate plan then you need to be sure your plan conforms to your state’s laws on terms, provisions, execution, etc.

With that said, if you do decide to inquire about having an attorney assist in planning for your pet, make sure you know how to choose a lawyer. A Google search on “how to choose a lawyer” or “how to choose an attorney” will yield many good articles and ideas of what to look for.

From my experience, the primary reasons why clients change attorneys or firms, aside from moving and retirement, are lack of personal connection (the lawyer’s version of “bedside manner”), lack of communication, and lack of expertise. The first two are easily assessed – how you feel about the person and how responsive he or she is to you. The third is much harder to judge, as it is with any specialty, but hints can be gleaned from word-of-mouth, credentials/bio, positions held in peer and community associations, and just how “knowledgeable” the attorney is about their area of expertise (but don’t confuse flash with substance). Just as you don’t go buy a GSD from someone that breeds a dozen other different dog breeds, for something specific like this in the legal field you may want to hunt down a specialist – in this case someone in tax or estate planning (I mention tax because some people that do “estate planning” at one level or another sometimes miss the tax issues, and if you have a substantial estate then tax knowledge should be a requirement). Some lawyers do advertise pet trusts or pet planning, but don’t expect to see it plastered all over their website; I don’t even mention it on mine. Instead, look for an attorney that does estate planning or tax, and then call to inquire. If they have no idea, are hostile, or indifferent, move on. If they ask you to come in to discuss it, then you may have found your person.

(Now, for another dog analogy) But as Schutzhund is a three phase sport and a successful dog must do all three, any one of these criteria cannot be viewed on its own – you should look at the whole picture. Just make sure the person you choose is a person you can work with, someone you trust, and someone licensed to practice in your state.

Good luck with your planning, but it is planning, so make sure to think about as many scenarios as possible. People on this thread have given great ideas of what to consider when making the plan, and you will likely come up with many others.

Now for the legal stuff…

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

IRS Circular 230: You are advised that because of the impact of recent amendments of Circular 230 of Treasury Regulations that govern practice before the Internal Revenue Service I am disclosing to you that written advice contained herein is not intended by me to be used, and it cannot be used by you, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on you.”
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Oh wow!!! Jklatsky, please tell Justin a big Thank You for putting down such succinct information, that too without any legalese! I will show this to my DH tonight. That's a very good point about asking the estate planning lawyers if they do pet trusts. I guess that would give some idea about both willingness and capability.
 

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Excellant post, thank you so much. I just wanted to point out that laws vary from State to State. It is very important that each of us check the laws in the States we reside.

Just as a side note, as I plan to finish this project this weekend, but its important to review these plans every year or so. I make a point to talk with my people every January -new year, peoples lives change, I need to know our plans are still in place. My group appreciates this. Its an open conversation and they need to know I'm fine if things have changed.
 

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This is a timely reminder. We have been talking about updating our wills and have been planning to ask Suki's breeder if he will take her, either to stay with him or to find her a loving home. We are actually going over to his place this evening to bring his computer back (DH was doing some work on it for him), and will make sure we talk about it tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Originally Posted By: shilohsmom I make a point to talk with my people every January -new year, peoples lives change, I need to know our plans are still in place. My group appreciates this. Its an open conversation and they need to know I'm fine if things have changed.
Quick clarification -- are you talking about speaking to the lawyer who drew up the will or the people who will take over the orphan?
 

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Great guestion UConnGSD. I'm referring to the people who agree to take on the pet(s). Since peoples lifes change from year to year its always a good thing to touch base with them on this topic here and there. I have it calendared for each January, just makes it easier for me that way.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks, Rosa! Would you have the same policy if the dog were to go to a rescue organization?
 
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