Some people may dismiss National Pet Day as just another unofficial holiday used as a hashtag (#NationalPetDay, holla!), but in actuality, the holiday is just as real as Siblings Day, or Grandparents Day, or Second Cousin Day — because pets are, in fact, our family members.
As such, it’s important to give them consideration when thinking about life planning. On a practical level this just means, y’know, maybe don’t adopt a puppy two weeks before giving birth to twins. But, on a more serious scale, you might want to consider your pet’s provisions in your living trust. For most people, that just means assigning a caretaker for your pet should the worst (gulp) happen. But for the wealthy, this may mean something much stranger.
Estate planning attorney Erach F. Screwvala has noticed an upward trend in bizarro pet provisions. We spoke with Mr. Screwvala about the weirdest requests he’s received, as well as practical estate planning advice for us pet owners who don’t own treadmills for our cat.
Hi Mr. Screwvala! Can you tell us what an estate planning attorney does?
My job is to provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand counsel to individuals and families who want to have the peace of mind that they have done all they can to protect their loved ones. Estate planning is all about helping clients understand their particular goals, needs, and challenges, while finding the right solutions for them and their families to secure their future.
When did you start noticing a trend in pet provisions?
In the last 5-6 years.
What are some of the strangest provisions you’ve come across?
Some memorable ones include a woman requesting her dog’s fur coat collection to be included in her estate plan. At first, this seemed absurd, but when I reviewed the total value of the coats, it was quite a substantial figure, so this was definitely a wise provision to include.
Another client requested that I include the provision of a gym set for her cat. The set was made up of specially made apparatus suitable for a cat including a treadmill!
One of my most notable was when I was asked to include a diamond-encrusted feeding bowl in a client’s will. The bowl was made from real diamonds (not cubic zirconia as you might imagine for a pet feeding bowl). The diamond make-up of the bowl made it extremely valuable and made it worth passing down to future generations (and future dogs). Since diamonds hold their value forever, I granted her request.
Have you noticed any demographic similarities among the people (or pets!) making these requests?
People will do anything for their pets; they are part of the family after all. The only similarity is that they have all been over 50 years of age, which doesn't come as a surprise as most people wait until later in life to establish an estate plan. However, with more and more millennials choosing to have pets over having children, I'm sure that we will see the frequency of peculiar pet provisions increasing.
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