June 24, 2010

A Glimpse at Pet Inheritance

Well for my last posting I had to read a fair bit about pet inheritance and I didn't manage to cover all the subject matter I wanted to cover. This post will complete my thoughts about pet inheritance and I'll have some new subject matter to post about in the near future. I'm going to talk about two subjects in this post, the options for pet inheritance and my gut reaction to people leaving vast amounts of money to pets while leaving little to anyone else.

There is some pretty interesting and astounding information to be found when you scratch the surface of pet inheritance. The first interesting fact is how wide-pet inheritance actually is. It is not just the ultra rich making trusts for their pets. One article from yahoo states that, "Approximately 25 per cent of American pet owners have provided for their pets in either a will or trust, according to the American Bar Association estimate." Another interesting blog post talks about 7 dogs and cats that are 'Actually Richer than You.' due to the inheritance set up to provide for them. So there are both many rich and not to rich pets out there.

Which brings up the question, how does it work that an animal gets all that money? As I'm sure your aware that gluing a few 1000 bills to your dog/cat will not ensure that it is well taken care of after your passing, also the giving of money to an animal could be void depending on where you live.

John C. Martin comes up with three solutions. 1. Give your pet to a friend/relative. 2. Give your pet to an animal protection agency. 3. Make a Pet trust.

John comes up with some pretty good cons with number 1. stating that, "First, the friend or relative may not want to take care of your pet. Even if they express a desire today, your friend or relative may move away or face new life circumstances, making them unable or unwilling to provide proper care and support for your pet. Second, once your friend takes legal ownership of your pet, there is no guarantee that they will fulfill your desires, whether expressed orally or in a will. A worst-case scenario is an immediate euthanization of the pet upon a change of ownership, regardless of your best intentions."

He also has good cons agianst number 2,  "A gift to an organization like the SPCA is an excellent solution for many pet owners. Yet, for many, such a gift may not be sufficiently personal. Moreover, it cannot be guaranteed exactly how money for long term financial support will be provided and whether proper placement of the pet can be achieved." So if you really believe in the organization and what it stands for this is a good option, but if you want your pet to live in luxury then it probably won't work for you.

3. is where it really gets interesting. It is where you set up an account with an amount of money for the pet and can nominate both a caretaker and a trustee. With this option you can budget out how the money is to be spent and the caretaker is to follow that budget. The trustee is then responsible for checking up and make sure the money is spent in the proper way. Yet, John finds problems with this too, "The expenses associated with administering a pet trust may rule out their use unless they are funded with a relatively large amount of money. Finally, while enforcement mechanisms under a pet trust are better than the alternatives, there is still no guarantee that the trustee will act completely in the pet’s interest."

It is also interesting to note the difference it makes on the event of the pets death. When the pet with the trust dies there is a 'remainder beneficiary' which gets the remaining amount of money. Naming either the caretaker or trustee as the beneficiary gives them an incentive to kill the pet, especially if the pets budget and overall value are high. So a person should name a third party or a charity, in which case the 3rd party or charity has an interest in the death of the pet. Not only that the caretaker and trustee might feel slighted that they are being entrusted with the dogs care, but none of the money, so you might have to put them in your will in other ways.

All this boils down to a pet owner having to trust someone upon their death. In the trust set up they have to believe that two or possibly more people will fulfill their wishes. In 2. they have to trust a company and the pet might not live in great surroundings for a while. In 1. you just have to trust one person, but their is no recourse if this person was to change their mind about your agreement.

Now that's the basics of pet inheritance, yet one issue still bothers me a little. This issue would be if the ladies in my last post didn't leave any money to charity and instead left everything to their dogs, which is how the media largely protrayed it. I read some forums and a lot of people responded like I did before I did any research. They said that this lady was out of touch and horrible; it was a slap in societies face. The money could have done so much to numerous causes, yet ended up being used in almost the most selfish way imaginable.

This reaction was then responded to by a minority in a libertarian way saying something like 'She earned the money so she can leave it or spend it in any way she wants.' I have no problem with this and it is a valid rebuttal, but just as someone who would burn their money could be criticized, so can someone who gives it frivolously to individual animals. Everyone has the free speech to say that, the money was utterly wasted and could have been spent on much better things, and it erroneous that it was her money. It is obvious she could spend the money however she chooses, but that doesn't mean that choice is devoid of criticism.

I think a quote can be changed to fit that sort of spending. The original being Jean Rostand's quote, "Kill a man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god." Leave billions to one dog and you are deplorable. Leave billions to millions of animals and you are beneficent. Tell everyone to read my blog and you are God.

thanks for reading
-the moral skeptic

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