Your pets & the law

The courts have already determined that pets are like property in a divorce case and other legal proceedings. But most pet owners consider their pets a part of their families. So, should you include in your will arrangements for your pet’s care after you die?

This has recently become a big topic of discussion with the death of Sam Simon, co-creator of the long-running television show, The Simpsons. Simon died from colon cancer in March at the age of 59. His dog, a 125-pound Cane Corso named Columbo, is now in the care of one of Simon’s close friends – but the money promised for the dog’s care is not to be found.

Simon was a big animal rights philanthropist who had rescued the 5-year old Columbo, and when he knew he was dying, bequeathed the dog to his friend and animal trainer, Tyson Kilmer. Now, Kilmer and his wife and business partner, Alison are caring for Columbo without the financial help that Simon had promised.

Kilmer says that they had a verbal agreement with Simon that he would provide the annual $140-thousand required to care for Columbo, who has physical problems. Some of the medical and therapeutic care includes twice-a-week acupuncture that costs $3640 a month. Simon had paid for this treatment up until his death.

The trust, overseen by Simon’s former business manager, says Kilmer is a “shakedown artist” who originally asked for a lump sum of $1.7 million and threatened to go to the press if he wasn’t paid.

But the Kilmers aren’t the only ones feeling wronged by the Simon trust. Several nonprofits, including PETA, say that Simon had promised them that his big donations to their causes would continue after his death. But the trust is allegedly not carrying out his wishes.

While we wish them luck with Columbo’s care, the question remains – should you make arrangements for your pets in your will?

It is customary for people to do so, even people who are not wealthy. However, it’s not always top-of-mind when drawing up your will. So, make sure that if you have beloved animals, you add this to your list of things to discuss when setting up a trust.

If you have questions about your pets’ care and well-being should they outlive you, consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.

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