Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Learning About "Estate Planning for Pets"

If you are convinced, as I am, that pets -- as a special, beloved form of "property" -- need planning for their preservation & protection, how can you learn more, so that you can put an effective plan into place? I offer two upcoming educational opportunities:

  • A half-hour interview about "Estate Planning for Pet Owners" to be broadcast on radio station WCOJ-AM in Eastern PA on Saturday, August 4, 2007, from 10:00 to 10:30 am.
  • A "Call-In" course entitled "Estate Planning for Pets" to be presented by PBI on Friday, September 28, 2007, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm.
Radio Broadcast:

The broadcast was pre-recorded in early June, 2007, as a telephone conversation between me and "talk-show-hostess"
Jan Colliton, Esq. , of West Chester, PA, on the topic "Estate Planning for Pet Owners".

Jan is an experienced elder law attorney, who practices through Colliton Law Associates, P.C. I know Jan through her participation in the Probate & Trust Law Division, of the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section, of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Jan also
has written extensively on elder law topics, as indicated on her website:
For the past 9 ½ years, Ms. Colliton has authored a weekly newspaper column, “Planning Ahead” on senior planning issues in West Chester’s Daily Local News, totaling over 400 columns on subjects such as Social Security, Long Term Care Insurance, Medicare Health Insurance Supplements, and Medicaid applications. * * *
Her website contains an archive of her past columns for the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2007, which you can access.

The basis for our conversation was the article mentioned in my previous posting, "
Pets, as Property in PA, Need Planning" (07/20/07): "What the General Practitioner Needs to Know About Pennsylvania Animal Law (Part II)—Personal and Estate Planning for Pennsylvanians Owning Pets", which was published in Volume 77 of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Quarterly, in July 2006.

In that conversation, I briefly mentioned the legal device of a "pet trust". As of November 6, 2006, the Pennsylvania Uniform Trust Act (Chapter 77, of Title 20, of PA Consolidated Statutes) has authorized use of a
"trust for care of [an] animal" under its Section 7738 and Section 7739. Such trusts can be enforced under Section 7710, if properly created under Section 7732.

Jan then wrote a column about the topic, entitled "
Trusts Can Protect Your Pet’s Future", dated June 18, 2007.
A few years ago, a fellow West Chester attorney asked me what I thought of Pet Trusts in estate planning. Honestly, I had never given the matter any thought and quickly shelved the idea away with many other notions never implemented in my experience.

Recently, this planning tool merited a second look. Neil Hendershot, an extremely well known and highly regarded attorney with the Harrisburg office of Goldberg Katzman, PC, who has served as Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, and hosts the
PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, raised the same issue. This time Professor Hendershot caused me to sit up and take note.

Neil cited the multiple studies that show that pet owners tend to be happier, healthier, and more efficient on their jobs than those who do without.

Also, in times of illness, stress, and loss, humans who have contact with pets fare much better. Children, seniors and those suffering from degenerative illnesses, in particular, benefit from contact with pets and there are measurable improvements in outcome based on the animal-human bond. There are actually more households in America today with pets than with children.

For persons who forged a strong connection with their pets and even consider them to be members of their families, it may come as some surprise that, under the law, pets are property.

In fact, as Neil explained, “There is almost no distinction under the law between a dog and a chair.” One difference is that pets come needing care. Many of them are destroyed where they cannot easily be placed in new homes.

Recognizing all of this, Neil noted that there are some actions that pet owners can take to protect their non-human family member. * * *

While Jan & I talked about what could -- and should -- be done to protect pets ("companion animals"), I referred her listeners to the website of Professor Gerry W. Beyer, a pioneer in this area. Jan explored his website further, and included some tips in her article.

These ideas are taken both from Neil Hendershot’s discussion with me and from the website of Gerry W. Beyer, Professor at Texas Tech University School of Law.

To learn more, listen to the WCOJ Radio 1410 broadcast between Neil Hendershot and me which will air on Saturday, August 4 at 10:00 am and also consult the website of Gerry W. Beyer at

If you cannot receive the broadcast, you may still be able to hear our conversation. After the "air date", I will attempt to post the audio recording as an MP3 file attached to this Blog. Then you could listen to it online.

Call-In Course:

Prior to my conversation with Jan, I had asked Gerry Beyer if he would be interested in participating with me in a "call-in" course to be presented by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. To my surprise, he agreed.

Those who register for the session will hear the foremost expert nationwide on "estate planning for pets". I am privileged to participate with Gerry.

Gerry previously participated in a similar call-in course sponsored by the American Bar Association, offered nationally.

He also maintains the most complete, current, website about "planning for pet owners", as he noted in a posting (09/11/06) on the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog, which he edits:

Updated Materials on Estate Planning for Pet Owners

I have recently updated my materials relating to estate planning for pet owners.

For the non-attorney audience, I have posted the "Top 20" most frequently asked questions about pet trusts as well as an article entitled Prepare for Your Companion Pet's Future [PDF Format] which was prepared for Phoenix Landing and includes special tips for parrot owners.

For attorneys, I have posted an article entitled Estate Planning for Non-Human Family Members [PDF Format].

You may be interested to note that at least 38 jurisdictions now have statutes specifically addressing pet trusts.

The session will be presented to registrants with reference to Gerry's website, and also with reference to a website that I am constructing. Mine will be organized around the material in my original article. It will require a log-in by course registrants, and may not be public for awhile.

Here is the publicity information from PBI about our call-in course:
Telephone Seminar: Estate Planning for Pets
1.5 Credit(s) Including 0.0 Ethic(s)
Join Neil Hendershot and Professor Gerry Beyer as they explore the issues you need to know to help your clients plan for the future care of their pets.
More information & registration
Estate Planning for Pets
1.5 Total CLE credits (No Ethics)

Note: This telephone seminar will begin on Friday, September 28, 2007 at 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM Eastern Time.
Product №:5095T
Duration: 90 minutes

Item Description | Faculty | Pricing
Item DescriptionBack to top
Join Neil Hendershot and Professor Gerry Beyer as they explore the issues you need to know to help your clients plan for the future care of their pets. Professor Beyer is the national expert on planning for pets, as well as a recognized scholar on estate planning in general. He joins us from the Texas Tech University School of Law.

This Call-In CLE will explore estate planning for pets both in Pennsylvania and nationally with a focus on Pennsylvania pet trust laws which are identical to those in the model Uniform Trust Code.

PBI is pleased to offer a special price for this 1.5 hour session. Members of the Pennsylvania and other Bar Associations: $89. Nonmembers: $109.

As to registration, PBI notes: If you wish to sign up through PBI’s Customer Service, you must sign up no later than 1 hour prior to the start of the seminar. If you wish to sign up online you may sign-up as late as 5 minutes before the program begins.

If you are interested, I recommend registration far earlier than that deadline.

If you cannot hear the course at its scheduled "call-in" time, you can hear it later. PBI will make it available for online listening by registrants, and likely also will issue it on an audio CD.