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Trust and Estate Litigation Over the Family Pet a Possibility

Jan. 5, 2017

Americans have an intense love and affection for their family pets, and many treat them as substitute children. As a result of this devotion, it is not uncommon for people to include their pets when drafting their estate plans. Sometimes these decisions can lead to trust and estate litigation when relatives do not share the same viewpoint. Many New York families have included their own pets in their final plans.

Recently, one woman indulged her passion for pets by making a bequest to her local animal shelter. The mayor of the town made an announcement over the holidays that the gift, which was approximately $1.2 million, was left in the hopes that the facility could continue to provide for the needs of the animals. The executors of the woman’s estate have already allocated more than $540,000 for a planned expansion.

In addition to the work that will increase space for both dogs and cats, the funds are also earmarked for a new vehicle. The shelter announced plans to begin renovations early this month and they have reportedly already ordered the van that will be used in transporting pets for neutering surgeries. While this is not the first time a citizen has donated funds to the shelter, it is the largest gift the facility has received.

The mayor’s announcement included the assent of the woman’s family, so in this instance, the decision to leave such a gift will likely not result in trust and estate litigation. There are instances, however, where gifts of these types may upset or disappoint other family members, resulting in hurt feelings and possibly legal challenges. New York residents who are concerned about whether their final wishes will be carried out or possibly question the validity of a family member’s estate plans have the right to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in estate planning.

Source:, “Woman bequeaths $1.2 million to Carter dogs and cats“, John Thompson, Dec. 27, 2016