LEGAL BRIEFING - Fido can't inherit, but you can provide for him

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Dear John,

Every now and then, I read or hear about a wealthy person dying and leaving millions of dollars to their pet. I am not wealthy, but I do want to make sure that my dog is taken care of if anything happens to me. What can I do to make sure she inherits enough to live comfortably when I am gone?

Sincerely,

Trixie's Mama

Dear Mama,

Many of us are pet owners and animal lovers. With some animals having longer life expectancies than humans, such as parrots and some turtles, it is natural to want to make sure they are taken care of if their owner passes before they do.

Pets are unable to inherit anything. They have no legal right to own property. The easiest way to make sure your pet is cared for is to find someone who knows you and loves your animal also and ask them to be willing to take care of your pet.

If you want something more formalized, tell your estate planner that you want specific provisions in a durable power of attorney or in a trust. This is a relatively new area of law, so new issues are arising all the time. Currently, Washington has some statutes that guide estate planners with creating trusts for the benefit of vertebrate (having spines) animals--so an octopus would not be included.

The important thing to remember is to make sure you discuss your desires clearly with your estate planner. Something to include in your discussions should be what you want done in the event that you are no longer able to care for your pet due to disability.

Sincerely,

John

John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at askjohn@wwub.com.

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