If you have a family pet it may not have occurred to you to consider how your pet fits into your overall estate plan – but it should. In fact, the fate of your pet is a primary reason to create an estate plan in the first place once you realize how the law views your pet absent a plan. Your pet is your property by law. One pet owner’s request for how her “property” should be handled after her death has caused a national uproar on social media, leading many people to ask “ Should your pet be considered your property in your estate plan? ”
Connie Ley, of Aurora, Indiana, recently died leaving behind Bela, her nine year old German Shepard. The request she made in her Last Will and Testament regarding Bela has caused controversy to spread across all forms of social media. The controversy stems from the fact that in her Will Ley asked that Bela be euthanized, cremated, and her ashes spread with Ley’s ashes. Understandably, dog lovers and animal rights activists from coast to coast are in an uproar over the testamentary request. The law, however, allows such a request because animals are considered property and a decedent may decide what happens to his/her property after death.
Although the request may sound cruel, there is a reason why Ley made such a request. In fact, her first request was for Bela to be transported to Best Friends Animal Society’s no-kill sanctuary located in southern Utah. According to Ley’s Will, the request to euthanize Bella was only to be considered if the costs associated with transporting her to Utah were too high. According to Ley’s Executor, Ley only asked for Bela to be euthanized because the dog has a history of aggression and Ley was concerned that she would not do well with other people, particularly children.
To date, numerous offers to pay for the transportation costs and/or to take Bela in have poured in to Ley’s Executor (a close frond of Ley’s who wishes to remain anonymous). Ultimately, the Executor will decide Bela’s fate.
For many, the request to euthanize an animal sounds like something that should be illegal because many people think of their pets as part of the family. The law, however, considers your pet to be your property, just as your home, your car, and your furniture are your property. If you consider your family pet to be part of your family, make sure that he/she is included in your estate plan if you wish to ensure that he/she will be well cared for in the event of your death.
If you have additional questions or concerns about pet planning, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.