3 Famous Pet Trust Cases and Their Lessons Nov 3, 2016 In the not too distant past, people thought that pet trusts were an anomaly, something to laugh at. Now, however, that is different. As of May 2016, every state in the US recognizes pet trusts. However, that does not mean that these pet trusts will always be recognized or respected. I want to review three famous pet trusts to highlight lessons that we can learn from them to protect our pets from unintended consequences. Three Pet Trust Stories Leona Helmsley and Trouble When Ms. Helmsley died in 2006, she disinherited two grandchildren and gave $12 million to her dog in a pet trust. However, the probate judge decreased the pet trust’s value to $2 million, gave $6 million to the two grandchildren, and gave the remaining $4 million to charity. Also, Ms. Helmsley’s dog was not buried in the family mausoleum as requested, but was instead cremated. Lessons learned: You may not want to leave large quantities of property to a pet, as it can create family conflict or be stricken from your plan after a lawsuit. Rather, you should limit your pet trusts to what is reasonably needed to provide for your pet for the rest of their life. Also, if you want to disinherit a family member, you need to take extra precautions to protect that decision from a lawsuit. Michael Jackson and Bubbles Bubbles was Michael Jackson’s favorite pet chimpanzee. Although Bubble reportedly was left $2 million, that money was never used to provide for him. Bubbles is currently being cared for using funds from donations. Lessons learned: You need to work with an attorney to clarify your intentions and to write them down so that your wishes can be carried out. Karla Liebenstein and Gunther III (and IV) Liebenstein was a German countess who left her entire fortune of about $65 million to her dog, Gunther III. After Gunther III died shortly after, Gunther IV inherited the fortune, which eventually grew to more than $373 million. Lesson learned: You can use your pet trust to provide for your pets’ posterity, but you have to explicitly make that a part of your plan. Final Thoughts If you have pets and have not yet provided for them in your estate plan, contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to discuss how you can provide for your pets.