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Providing for your pets: A legal perspective

By R. Douglas DeNardo, Esq.

Experience has taught us that people, in general, do not enjoy acknowledging their mortality. That’s why many of us have put off writing a will or creating an estate plan, even though we know it’s necessary. It is also accurate to say that even those who have prepared an estate plan, may not have considered their pet. According to the AARP, less then 30% of Americans with pets who have wills, have provided for them. 
Animal Rights law is a very new area and even today is only taught at a handful of law schools. When you are discussing estate issues, it is very important to understand the law in your state of residence or your wishes may be overturned in a court of law. Currently, pets are considered property under Pennsylvania law and you cannot leave property to property. Therefore, even if you put a clause in your will leaving all your estate to Fluffy or Fido, it will not stand up through the probate process.
Nonetheless, there are measures that you can take to provide for your pet in the event of your incapacitation or death. In Pennsylvania, you can set up a trust to care for your pet. This became legal when the Pennsylvania Uniform Trusts Act, including Section 7738, which allows for the creation of a trust to care for animals alive during the settlor’s lifetime, was passed. For updates on the passage of this legislation, you can consult the PA General Assembly.
In the meantime, you may want to consider these alternatives to safeguard the future of your pet:
© 2008 Rothman Gordon, P.C. The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining legal advice applicable to your situation.

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