Sit, Stay, Create a Trust Detroit attorneys pen book to help the pet owning public

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By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

You dote on your dog, care for your cat, pamper your parrot, love your lizard, and fret over your fish.

But what will happen to these much-loved pets when you die?

Bob Kass and Betty Carrie, estate planning attorneys with Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker in Detroit, answer that question in their new book, "Who Will Care When You're Not There?" The book, about estate planning for pet owners, was launched at the Detroit Kennel Club Dog Show in early March.

"The book deals with an important issue for the pet owning public, which includes not only dogs and cats, but parrots - that can live up to 100 years - horses and more," Kass says. "What will happen to your animal when you are no longer there to care for it?"

Pet Trusts are a niche practice for estate planners, he says.

"This book educates the pet owner on why it's important to make plans, issues to address, and how to implement the plan - with online document preparation service like LegalZoom or consultation with a lawyer experienced in this area of the law. Since it's a serious topic, we decided to lighten it up with full-color whimsical illustrations by a nationally known pet artist, and inspirational quotes throughout.

"We expect this will provide many opportunities to reach out to pet owners. The first will be a series of seminars on estate planning for pet owners for Leader Dogs for the Blind in May, followed by a cable TV interview on a show which features legal issues."

Kass, who earned his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University, J.D. at the University of Michigan, and LL.M. in taxation from the New York University Law School, has specialized in estate planning, wealth preservation, and planned giving, for estates of all sizes for more than 25 years.

Carrie, who earned her bachelor's degree in economics from Eastern Michigan University, J.D. and LL.M. in taxation from the University of Florida, practices in the areas of taxation, corporate, partnership and limited liability company law, and estate planning and administration.

In a recent case they heard about, a woman who was terminally ill decided a co-worker she had known for decades should care for her 3-year-old Cocker Spaniel.

"She had her lawyer draft a pet trust, with a third party as trustee. She even went to the trouble to have her dog stay with the proposed guardian for several days to make sure her dog got along with the guardian and the guardian's dog. It seemed to work fine," Kass says.

"When she died, $20,000 was given to the trustee of the pet trust for the dog's care. However, the guardian then demanded the $20,000 from the trustee and, when the trustee refused, gave the dog back."

"One person who reviewed our book has two horses, descendants of horses that came over from Spain on Columbus's second voyage," Kass says. "They are very particular horses. Her children aren't interested in horses and/or don't have time to care for them, and she's very concerned about what will happen to them if she's unable to care for them. She is considering naming a person she shares a boarding arrangement with, but needs to formalize the money side - to create and arrange for funding of a pet trust."

Lawyers may want to buy the book to give or loan to clients, to encourage them to address this topic in their estate planning, and a major trust company has purchased the book in quantity to distribute to its better clients, Kass says.

"Advance planning for our pets' care when we aren't around isn't just for horse owners and breeders, it's something that every owner of a 'special needs' pet needs to consider."

The book begins with a quote from "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Stain-Exupery that Carrie says captures the spirit of the book: "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. . . ."

For further information about the book, table of contents, sample chapters, and prepublication reviews, see www.carobtreepress.com.

Published: Mon, May 9, 2011

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