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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

New York and New Jersey estate planning lawyers, as well as the public, will likely always remember the headlines surrounding the late hotel and real estate investment billionaire Leona Helmsley’s estate – – particularly the part where she left a $12 million trust fund to benefit her spoiled little Maltese dog, Trouble.

So, what do you plan on doing for Sparky, Fluffy, or Trigger after you are gone?

While most people consider their pets to be part of the family, they don’t often include them in their estate planning. But for those who live alone, or those who possess pets with extraordinary life expectancies–or those with excess riches– it may be wise to include your pet in your estate planning.

Just as you would want to designate in your last will and testament the legal guardians of any minor children, depending on your situation, it may be wise to designate a caretaker for your pet if you should die first. While state laws differ, designating a caretaker for your pet can also be done in a living trust or pet trust.

In the case of the trust, money can be put in trust to cover the costs associated with caring for the pet during its lifetime. While dogs don’t have exceptionally long life spans, some animals do—and their upkeep can be expensive as well. For example, “horses can live up to 40 years, parrots up to 80…and box turtles up to 125.” To avoid placing a financial burden on the person you name as caretaker for your beloved pet, sufficient funds for the pet’s upkeep should be set aside in some cases.

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we help clients in both states in all matters of trust and estate planning and administration.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.