Friday, December 09, 2011

Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs

I have just finished reading Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs: How to leave (some of) your estate to your pet by Barry Seltzer and Gerry Beyer, and published by Prism Publishing Inc., 2010.

Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs offers practical advice on planning for your companion animals in case you die before them or you become incapacitated and are no longer able to care for your pets. The authors identify five situations in which your pets can run into problems. They are:

1. When you are incapacitated.
2. Immediately after you die and your pets are home alone.
3. Between the time you die and the time your will is read.
4. Between death and the admission of your will to probate.
5. The ongoing period after your death.
You can plan for each of these five situations, and the authors offer suggestions for each of them, ranging from informal arrangements such as asking a friend to take care of your pet and then leaving your pet to that person in your will, to formal trusts with funds provided on an ongoing basis to your caregiver, with an independent trustee and protector to monitor the administration of the trust.

This book is written for pet owners, and is easy to read. As the title implies, the book has a nice playful style, with pet trivia or “factoids,” and humourous quotations. One of my favourite quotations has to come from one of my favourite humour writers, Dave Barry:

You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, ‘My God, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!’
Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs sets out the legal framework for estate planning for pets, in Canada and the United States, and to a lesser extent in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. As the authors note, the law does vary from place to place. I found it quite interesting to learn that many States in the United States have legislation recognizing and facilitating the creation of trusts for animals.

There is a variety of resources in the appendices, such as a summary of state laws, a list of prohibited versus acceptable animals as pets, and contact information for animal retirement homes, temporary pet care providers and sanctuaries.

Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs was helpful to me as an estate-planning lawyer in raising my awareness of some of the issues those of my clients with pets should consider in their estate and incapacity planning.

Barry Seltzer is a lawyer practicing in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Gerry Beyer is Governor Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law, at Texas Tech University School of Law. Professor Beyer is also the author of Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog.

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