According to the 2015-16 APPA National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 65% of all households in the United States have a pet. Along with pet ownership comes the responsibility of ensuring the companion animal’s care and well-being – even if that extends beyond the owner’s lifetime. Westchester County elder law attorney Anthony J. Enea of Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP in White Plains and Somers, N.Y. recently addressed the importance of protecting your pet’s future and urges pet owners to consider including companions animals in their estate plan.
“One only needs to observe life’s daily interactions to conclude that pets have become an integral part of the lives of many,” said Anthony Enea. “The question most pet owners face is what steps they can undertake to ensure that their pet or other domestic animal is properly provided for in the event of their demise.”
Historically, pets were most commonly provided for in the owner’s Last Will and Testament. Pets could be left as a bequest to another with the hope that the animal(s) would be properly cared for. The Last Will could also specifically allocate a portion of the owner’s estate for the care and maintenance of the pet(s).
“The problem with providing for pets in a Last Will is that the document can be contested for a reason unrelated to the pet,” explained Enea. “There can also be a significant lapse of time between one’s death and the appointment of the executor of said Last Will. These roadblocks can essentially leave the pet in a state of limbo. Because of these impediments, the wishes of pet owners have, in many instances, been thwarted by the use of a Last Will to provide for their pets.”
In 1996, New York became one of the first states to enact a Pet Trust Statute permitting the creation of a trust for the care and maintenance of pets. The pet trust can be created and funded during the life of the creator as an “inter vivos trust” or it can be a testamentary trust, created in one’s Last Will. At the end of the life of the pet or animal, the trust will terminate and the balance of the income and principal of the trust will be distributed per the wishes of the trust’s creator.
Perhaps the most well-known pet trust was created by Leona Helmsley for her beloved white Maltese, Trouble. Although Trouble’s trust was originally funded with twelve million dollars, the Manhattan Surrogate’s Court ultimately reduced the size of the trust to two million dollars after determining it was significantly overfunded. Most pet trusts, however, are not so extravagant.
“Pet trusts are not solely for the wealthy and are not overly complex,” said Enea. “While a pet trust can still be contested (especially if it is overfunded), it is often the best and most viable option of ensuring that your wishes are implemented.”
Named Westchester County’s Leading Elder Care Attorney at the Above the Bar Awards, Anthony Enea has spent three decades protecting the rights of seniors, the disabled and their families. He is president of the Westchester County Bar Foundation and past chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law Section. His practice areas include elder law; Medicaid asset protection trusts; Medicaid applications (home care and nursing home); special needs planning; guardianships (Article 81 and 17-A); and wills, trusts and estates. Enea was named Best Lawyers’ 2016 Elder Law “Lawyer of the Year” in White Plains and is a Top 25 “Super Lawyer” in Westchester County. He was recently recognized with the Honorable Richard J. Daronco Distinguished Service Award from the Columbian Lawyers Association of Westchester County.
Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP is located at 245 Main Street in White Plains, N.Y. with additional offices in Somers, N.Y. Elder law attorney Anthony J. Enea can be reached at 914-948-1500 or a.enea(at)esslawfirm(dot)com. For the latest news, visit Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano online at http://www.esslawfirm.com.
About Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP
Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP is an AV preeminent rated elder law firm with offices in White Plains and Somers, N.Y. The practice concentrates on Elder Law; Medicaid Planning; Nursing Home and Home Care Applications; Wills, Trusts and Estates; Guardianships; Estate Litigation; Supplemental Needs Trusts; and Special Needs Planning. Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP serves Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, the Bronx, Manhattan, Long Island and Queens and is committed to providing the highest quality legal services to seniors, the disabled and their families. Visit the firm online at http://www.esslawfirm.com and http://www.westchesterseniors.com.