A recent news article at CNN reports on a Nashville Border Collie who is the subject of a $5 million trust. That’s a lot of balls, frisbees, sheep, and treats for the lucky BC. It turns out that when Bill Dorris, a successful businessman, died last year, he left a provision in his will to create a trust that ensures his Border Collie, Lulu, is taken care of for the rest of her life. He chose a friend, Martha Burton, who often took care of Lulu when Mr. Dorris went on trips, to take care of Lulu and to receive a reasonable monthly amount for that care. Not many more details are known, and that’s because trusts are not public documents. A will can be read by the public because it goes through the court system when it is probated. But a trust is generally private, and only the trustee who administers it and those mentioned in the trust know the details.
Is it legal to leave a Border Collie a large amount of money like that? While it is legal to create a pet trust in all 50 states, leaving Lulu such a large amount could potentially be a legal issue. Depending on the specifics of Tennessee’s pet trust law, a beneficiary under Mr. Dorris’ will might contest the large amount. If that winds up being the case, the excess money will be combined with the rest of the estate and go to the beneficiaries.
When making a pet trust, keep the following points in mind:
- Make sure the amount of money is reasonable;
- Choose a responsible person to care for the animal and discuss your decision with that person;
- Include alternate individuals in case your first choice can’t care for your animal and discuss your decision with those people;
- Clearly list the care you want for your animal, such as the kind of food, toys, and veterinary care you expect to be provided; and
- Provide details about the distribution of the remaining amount of money should your pet die before all of the money is used for his or her care.
Contact me today to add a pet trust to your estate plan!
This blog post is for educational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Seek an attorney’s advice for your specific situation.