Can I do anything for my pets?

The law views pets as property and as such they cannot be direct beneficiaries of a will. [You cannot leave your house to your dog any more than you can leave your dog to your house]. However, Texas and several other states have specific provisions allowing one to establish a trust for the benefit of an animal by designating an amount to be placed in trust with a person named as a trustee who distribute monies to another person designated as the custodian of the animal. There was a California case where a trust was set up for a particularly beloved black cat with funds held by a trustee and doled out to the custodian. After many years it was discovered that the original cat had died and the custodian simply replaced it with another black cat in a scheme to retain access to the money.

How often should a will be updated?

Wills should be reviewed every three to five years or whenever your circumstances change. Often people named to serve as executor, guardian or trustee die, move away, annoy you or otherwise become unsuitable to serve in that capacity so the will would need to be revised.

This article may not send you racing to your attorneys’ office to get your estate in order. However, I hope in the very least it initiates a family dialogue. My mom did recover and she continues to educate me in life’s big and little lessons. Upon my return home, I let my husband in on my financial wizardry (the filing cabinet) and for the first time in our marriage, we prepared our taxes together. In so doing, we began the necessary discussions about what each of us wants done or not done in the event of a catastrophic illness. We also discussed how we want to ensure that our family heirlooms stay in the family. In the next few months I anticipate that we will commit these plans to paper – stay tuned.

*Although I am an attorney, I focus my practice on employment law, professional liability and various other types of business litigation. I would no more hire myself to prepare a will than I would hire an ophthalmologist to perform open-heart surgery. Bill on the other hand has been preparing wills since before I started kindergarten and holds an advanced degree in tax law. The italicized and bracketed statements in the answers are my attempt at translating legalese into English.

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided for educational purposes only. This article is intended to give you general information regarding the law and not to provide specific legal advice. There is no attorney client relationship between you and the authors of this article. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your jurisdiction. With respect to any parts of this article that may be considered attorney advertising, please know that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.