Pet trusts have become an increasingly popular way for pet owner’s to make sure that their pets are taken care after the owner passes away. As with other types of trusts, they too can lead to disputes as a New York case illustrates.
When Patricia Bowers passed away in 2010, the care of her dog, Winnie Pooh, was given over to her friend Virginia Hanlon. Bowers also left a $100,000 trust fund for the care of the animal.
Hanlon has filed a lawsuit claiming that she has received very little of that money.
She claims that the estate executor, Harriet Harkavy, is intentionally saving the money that is supposed to go for the dog’s care so Harkavy can donate it to charity and win points within her social circle. Bowers also states that a check for an emergency veterinary bill bounced, but that she was later reimbursed with a valid check.
The UPI reported this story in “Lawsuit filed in New York over handling of dachshund's $100,000 trust fund.” For her part, Harkavy claims that Hanlon has received everything she is entitled to under the terms of the trust.
What this case illustrates is that trusts for pets need to be treated just like any other trust and other estate planning documents. It is important that everyone involved who has authority is on the same page and will be able to work out their differences.
Ultimately, the trustee must also be someone who inspires trust in the beneficiaries. If not, then disagreements are likely to lead to expensive and unnecessary lawsuits, which are the very things that good estate plans are designed to avoid.
Reference: UPI (Aug. 1, 2016) “Lawsuit filed in New York over handling of dachshund's $100,000 trust fund.”