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Pet Trusts

To my dog Lucky, I leave…

By | Estate Planning, Other, Pet Trusts | No Comments

Every year in the United States, over 500,000 pets are orphaned due to the unexpected death or incapacity of their owners.  Approximately half of those 500,000 will be euthanized. This is tragic considering 87% of all pet owners consider their pets to be members of their family.

There is a new way to safeguard your pet. A “Pet Trust” provides you the ability to control every aspect of your pet’s future care – right down to the kind of food it will eat and the veterinary care it will receive. Any pet owner that is concerned about the future well-being of their pet needs to have a Pet Trust.

If you were unable to care for your pet, either because of incapacity or death, consider the following questions:

  • Does your family or designated pet-caregiver know which vet to use?
  • Do they know what food your pet eats, what medications it is taking, or what special needs your pet might have?
  • What if your family could not provide care for your pet? What then? Would your beloved pet end up in a shelter, only to be euthanized?

A Pet Trust creates a checks and balance system for the care of your pet.  A Pet Trust gives you the ability to designate a caregiver, and a trustee who will oversee the funds set aside for your pet. A Will does not give you these same options.

A Pet Trust is revocable, meaning you can change the terms of the trust at any time. Unlike a Will, a Pet Trust can be activated if you become incapacitated. Wills are only activated upon death; therefore, should you become disabled, there’s no legal document to protect your pet. Also, a Will cannot legally leave money to your pet. Animals are considered property, so they cannot inherit. That means any money designated in your Will for your pet would go to a designated caregiver. Once a caregiver receives the money, it can do whatever it wants with it. The courts lose jurisdiction over the caregiver once the money is distributed. With a Pet Trust, the courts can intervene if the trustee is misusing the funds.

Adding a Pet Trust to your estate plan is a perfect way to ensure all of your loved ones are protected – furry, feathered, or otherwise.

dave-eastman  Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Phoenix, Arrowhead and Scottsdale Estate Planning Attorney and Partner, David T. Eastman.

Why Choose Morris Hall, PLLC:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, Morris Hall is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only three firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with Morris Hall.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

 

Taking Care of Your Pets

By | Elder Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Other, Pet Trusts | No Comments

I love my dogs.  There have been dogs in my family since the day I was born.  And most of the time we have had two or three dogs.  They are, and always will be, a part of my family.  However, most states, including New Mexico and Arizona, consider pets as property.  It is an important distinction in terms of rights and how a pet is treated if you are not around – you get to do with your pet what you want, and if you didn’t make provisions, then the State decides what happens.

So planning for your beloved pet is important.  Deciding who will take care of your pet if you are unable ensures that your pet will be able to enjoy the rest of their lives.  In addition, whether you think your dog will grieve for your loss or not, they will have to adapt to their “new normal,” and that is hard for all of us.  The better your plan, the better your pet will be prepared.

But this planning can go a bit too far.  An Indiana woman made provisions for her dog in her Will.  However, her wish was that when she died, her dog was to be euthanized and their ashes are to be mixed.  All accounts indicate the dog is healthy, and otherwise would not need to be put down.

The good is that the woman made provisions for her pet in her estate plan.  The bad is that the woman decided to treat her pet as she would any other piece of property, rather than a living animal.  I hope that there was a misunderstanding in the drafting of the Will.

The wish to spend eternity with her pet is not out of the ordinary, but it is important to make sure your plan states that this will happen upon the natural death of the animal.  But until then, your furry friend will be able to spend the rest of its days with family or friend that you have predetermined would be the best fit.

For all of you like me, true animal lovers, make sure your pets are provided for in the best way possible.  Make your appointment today and discuss with one of our attorneys the best way to provide for your pets.

Albuquerque, New Mexico Estate Planning Attorney James PlitzContributed by MH Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces Estate Planning Attorney, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

When Your Life Changes, Your Estate Plan Should Too

By | Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Healthcare documents, Pet Trusts, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time | No Comments

Our lives are continually changing.  We go from a child to an adult, from single to married, from a couple to a family, from parents to grandparents, from one house to another…etc.  Our lives are made up of change.  Since your estate plan is created to protect you and your family, it makes sense that it needs to change over time as well.

Here are a few examples of situations where it is important to update your documents after a major change in your life.

           

Marriage

Just because you have married someone does not mean that person is automatically included in your estate or will be the executor.  You need to make sure that your documents are updated to include your spouse and any changes that the marriage may have caused in your property and asset information.  Also, if your marriage is joining two families together it is vital that you have an updated estate plan.  Estate distributions can get very tricky for combined families, so it is important to make your decisions now and have them recorded properly in your living trust.

Children

Any time there is an addition to the family it is a blessed occasion – one that should be planned for in your documents.  Your minor children need to have a guardian listed in your estate plan in case something happens to you and your spouse.  You should also ensure that the funds of your estate will pass to your children and set up how and when you want those distributions to occur.

Divorce

Many states dictate that a divorce revokes the provisions of a will or trust that applies to the former spouse, which requires the creation of new estate planning documents after a divorce.  You should also make sure that your former spouse is no longer listed on your HIPAA, Power of Attorney or beneficiary designations.

Growing Older

The older we get, the more we acquire.  In fact, we tend to have more assets, more property, life insurance, retirement plans…etc and all of these need to be planned for accordingly.  In most cases, you will have significantly more assets than you did in your 20s and 30s.  This means it is time to reevaluate your planning and ensure that these additional assets area protected and planned for.  You will also want to make certain that your estate does not exceed the estate tax exemption and will want to take advantage of some advanced planning opportunities if it does.

Death of a Spouse or Beneficiary

If your spouse or beneficiary passes away, there will be important steps you need to take for your estate planning documents.  If a beneficiary passes away you will need to update your documents to remove them as a beneficiary and potentially change the way the distribution of your estate is set up.  If your spouse passes away, you will likely have to create new documents to protect the assets which are now solely in your name.  You also may have aspects of the estate that will have to be administered depending upon how your planning was set up.  After any death that affects your estate plan, you should always meet with your estate planning attorney.

After any major life change, make certain you meet with your estate planning attorney to review your documents.  At Morris Hall we do not charge our clients to review their documents.  In fact, we actually will review documents from other firms/attorneys at no cost as well.  If you are ever unsure about the current status of your estate plan and would like a free review, simply call to schedule an appointment with an MH attorney at 888.804.5340.

Why Choose Morris Hall:

You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.804.5340 to schedule an appointment!

 

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

 

Amazing Stories from the Go Red Luncheon by New Mexico Attorney, James Plitz

By | Estate Planning, Estate taxes, Pet Trusts | No Comments

I have been fortunate in my life.  I have not had to experience loss, in any real way.  But I know many people who have, both from my personal life and my professional life.  And because of these experiences, I try to help not only plan people’s estates but to also get involved in the community and in activities that try to help reduce the impacts of these loses.

One such group that I am proud to associate with is the American Heart Association.  The organization does such tremendous in terms of research and education.  They work to help people prevent the onset of the disease via the education, but if you end up with a heart condition, the research is there to ensure a happy and full life.

Even more than what the organization does, is the people who are affected by it.  Today, I attended the Go Red for Women Luncheon in Albuquerque.  When I walked in the room, I was overwhelmed with a sea of red.  Hundreds of ladies in their red hats, dresses, coats filled the room.  These were people who have been affected by the pains that heart disease can cause.  This was a room of people who care!

Some of the stories made me cry (almost).  When you hear about a 37-year old fit and healthy man die of a massive heart attack, leaving behind a wife and 3 children it hurts.  But the stories were more encouraging.  The widow, with the new knowledge of a potential genetic issue, started monitoring the kids, making sure they knew warning signs.

There was the 16-year old who had gone through extensive heart surgeries, but is now a star on the high school soccer team. And the avid golfer, who when needing a pace-maker installed, consulted with the golf-pro to see which placement would least affect his swing.  And the 2-year old, who had her first operation at 4 days old, but is now toddling with the best of them.

These stories make the news headlines real.  I got to see the people.  I got to see their families.  And I am glad to be a part of such a great organization and such great people.

When I look at my own estate plan, I know that all the good I can do when I am alive can continue after I am gone because organizations like the Heart Association are a part of my plan.  I know that if I leave them out of my plan, they are losing some ability to keep doing the great work that they do.

Make sure those great organizations that mean something to you are not forgotten in your plan.

Albuquerque, New Mexico Estate Planning Attorney James PlitzContributed by MH Albuquerque and Santa Fe Estate Planning Attorney, James P. Plitz.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

When and What to Tell Your Children About Your Estate Plan

By | Estate Planning, Pet Trusts, Planning Ahead: One Week at a Time | No Comments

One of the hardest things a parent deals with after they have created their estate plan is talking to their children about their plan.  They usually struggle with talking to their kids about how much money they have and how much they plan on leaving behind.  But not talking to them is doing a disservice to them and leaving them unprepared.

Consider this; the United States will witness the largest transfer of wealth from one generation to the next over the course of the next 20 years. It is estimated that the baby boomers will receive $12 trillion dollars when their parents pass and the following generation will receive an additional $30 trillion when the baby boomers pass.

The main concern that clients have about talking to their kids about their wealth and their estate plans is that their children will become lazy and potentially cease to be productive members of society.   Parents fear their children may choose to simply rely on their future inheritance and waste their lives away.

Leaving your children in the dark and unprepared for receiving an inheritance typically hinders their ability to manage those funds in a productive manner. In fact, it often leads to them squandering their inheritance.

I always advocate to my clients that they should have a family meeting with all of their children.  The purpose of this meeting should be to discuss what the children should expect when their parents pass away, as well as what steps they need to take.  The discussion does not necessarily have to be about money and how much each child is going to receive, but it should be about what your values are, what to do with the opportunity they have been given, and how to be wise with the inheritance.

Many parents decide to assign unequal distributions to their children for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes one child may have greater needs then another, or perhaps the parents have already loaned money to one of their children and seek to balance that out by giving them a lesser portion of the estate.  Whatever the reason, if you chose to distribute your assets unequally to your children, we recommend you also talk to them individually to explain why you did this.  Without understanding your reasons, they may assume that you loved them less or were unhappy with them.  By lovingly informing them of the reasons for your decision, they will be able to understand and avoid hurt feelings and sibling rivalries.

If you have children that you believe will not be able to manage their inheritance wisely because they have drug problems, gambling issues, are spendthrifts, or a whole myriad of other reasons, we can create an estate plan that will protect that child from himself or herself. This will help ensure that the assets you have worked so hard for will be protected and used wisely for that child’s benefit.

To discover the many ways that an estate plan can help you and your loved ones, schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified estate planning attorneys today!  Call 888.222.1328 to set your appointment.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Making Arrangements for a Deceased Pet

By | Pet Trusts | No Comments

A beloved pet can truly become a member of the family.  They fill our lives with unconditional love, affection and acceptance.  Despite our flaws and imperfections, our pets always think we are simply the best! For these reasons, we love our pets and cherish their time with us.

Just as you would make funeral arrangements for a deceased family member, many are now choosing to make such arrangements when their pets pass away.  In fact, pets now have every option that humans have after a death – and more.  A deceased pet may be buried, cremated, given a funeral, preserved through taxidermy or freeze-drying, memorialized and even turned into a diamond (LifeGem uses cremated ashes to create synthetic diamonds).  These services are rapidly becoming increasingly popular– by leaps and bounds!

Most companies in the industry report major increases in sales every year – increases unheard of in other industries.  In fact, less than a decade ago there were only a handful of facilities that provided pet aftercare services.  Today there are over 700 nationwide, with more opening continually.

Depending on your wishes, you can give your pet the aftercare services you choose and have them memorialized in a way that is meaningful to you.  This is a wonderful advancement for those who have beloved pets they wish to honor and cherish after death.

We have often encouraged our clients to create pet trusts to ensure their pets are protected if they outlive them.  In your pet trust, you are able to designate who will care for your pet, the way they should be cared for and also set aside funds to pay for their care.  Today’s options for deceased pets also give you the opportunity to pre-plan for your pets needs after their life has ended.  If you choose, you can leave funds to pay for the services you want to be done for your pet, designating your wishes in regard to their aftercare arrangements.

The options for pet-lovers are ever increasing, and we are pleased that estate planning provides a means to ensure that those wishes are carried.  To discuss your options with a qualified MH estate planning attorney, simply call 888.222.1328 to schedule your free consultation today!

What the Attorneys of Morris Hall Can Do For You:
The attorneys at Morris Hall have 100’s of years of combined experience ensuring that families’ assets are protected from probate, unnecessary taxes, creditors, ex-spouses and Medicaid spend-down.  The attorneys also help those in Arizona and New Mexico to apply for and receive Medicaid assistance and Veterans Benefits.  Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Providing for Your Pets...Just in Case!

By | Pet Trusts | No Comments

I read an interesting article on the Humane Society’s website the other day regarding what happens to pets when their owner dies.  The most poignant concept I walked away with was that an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 pets are brought to shelters each year after their owner dies.  I was astounded by the magnitude of this number.

As an estate planning attorney, I often have the conversation with clients about who will care for their pet(s) when the client dies.  In most cases, clients have not thought about this concept.  Most assume they will outlive their pet(s) or “someone” will take them.  As seen by the statistic I read, this is not what always happens.

Our office recommends several steps be taken to keep your pet(s) from ending up in a shelter.  First, determine who you would want to care for your pet.  Take into consideration the lifestyle your pet is used to.  If you have an active dog, be sure to pair him or her with an active person, or someone willing to take the time to properly play and exercise your dog.  Talk to this potential caregiver to see if they would be willing and able to care for your pet(s).  You may also want to list a backup caregiver in the event your primary choice is no longer willing or able to care for your pet(s) when you die.

 The second step is to include your wishes in your estate plan.  Clearly state who is to become your pet(s)’s caregiver.  Clearly identify if you are providing the caregiver with a stipend, and the amount of the stipend, to help offset the cost of becoming the caregiver.  Being a pet owner has additional costs associated with it – there is the cost of food, grooming, vaccinations, doctor visits, etc.  Because these costs can add up, it is sometimes a deterrent for potential caregivers from taking on additional pets when someone dies.  Be realistic in the amount of funds you set aside for the care of your pet(s).  If the amount is too high, a court may set aside what you request and modify the amount (case in point is Leona Helmsley).  The final step is to review these decisions on a regular basis and ensure your choices still match your situation as time changes.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our office today at 888.222.1328.

MH

Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Italian Woman Gives Over $2.5 Million in Property to Her Dog and Not Her Daughter or Grandchildren

By | Estate Planning, Pet Trusts | No Comments

Recently an Italian woman bequeathed all of her property, valued at approximately $2.5 million, to her beloved dog.  The 84-year-old woman signed the will and had her lawyer attest to the document in order to ensure her dog receives the best of care if her pet should outlive her.

Technically, bequeathing property to a domestic animal has no legal force under Italian law.  However, by assigning an individual or entity as the executor of their will, a person can ensure that the animal receives the rights to the valuables and is given a worthy life.  In fact, in estate planning you can even lay out guidelines for the care and maintenance of your pet – getting as specific as you wish.  As long as the funds are provided, the animal will be expected to be given that treatment by law.

In this case, the elderly Italian woman chose to list her attorney as the executor of her will, trusting him to make certain her dog was cared for accordingly.  The choice this woman has made regarding her estate is especially surprising as she does have a daughter and several grandchildren.  Most individuals choose to have the majority of their funds go to their children and grandchildren, even while still ensuring that their pets are cared for.

We do believe that each individual has the right to choose how their assets are distributed, even if it may not be in accordance with the popular opinion.  While many would state that these assets should have gone to her child and grandchildren, the assets are hers to do with as she chooses.  This is a reason that we strongly recommend living trusts – they allow each person the ability to plan as they choose and to know their wishes will be carried out accordingly.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation to speak with an estate planning attorney, contact MH today at 888.222.1328.

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Protecting Your Pet’s Future With a Pet Trust

By | Pet Trusts | No Comments

Did you realize that you can ensure your pets are cared for if you are incapacitated or pass away?  By creating a pet trust you can ensure that you’re beloved dog, cat, bird or any other pet, is provided for in the manner you feel is best.

We love our pets.  In fact, American’s spend billions of dollars each year to ensure that their furry friends are taken care of.  The American Pet Products Association estimates that in the year 2010, Americans spent over $18 billion on pet food, over $11 billion on medications and supplies and more than $12 billion on veterinary care.  So, with all we do for our pets, it makes sense that we would want to make certain they were kept safe and well if we were no longer capable of providing their care.

Merely leaving a statement or a provision in your will to direct a caregiver and funds for your pet’s maintenance is not sufficient.  With this method, the designated caregiver can easily discard the pet and keep the funds for themselves.  However, a pet trust provides essential checks and balances to ensure that your pet receives proper care and that any funds left to provide for your pet are used according to your wishes.

When you create a pet trust, you designate a primary caregiver as well as one or more backup caregivers.  You can build specific instructions regarding your pets care into the trust, such as: veterinary care, grooming, feeding, diet, exercise, the disposition of your pet’s remains and any other stipulations that are important to you.  The caregiver is then required to follow the specific instructions for the care of your beloved pet.

Your pet trust will also have a designated trustee and backup trustees.  The trustee is responsible for ensuring that the funds appropriated for the pet are, indeed, used for the care of the pet.  They also make certain that the caregiver is performing their duties appropriately.

With a pet trust, you can rest assured that your beloved pet will be cared for in the way that you prefer, instead of the uncertain future that faces most pets after their owner is incapacitated or passes away.  Many of these pets end up in pounds or are euthanized.  Make certain that your furry friends stay healthy and happy even after you’re no longer able to care for them.

For more information on pet trusts, contact MH at 888.222.1328

About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Woman Cleared of Benefit Fraud by Using Inheritance on her Cats

By | Pet Trusts | No Comments

67 year-old Marlene Howes of Gloucester has been battling the courts to prove she did not commit benefit fraud.  Back in 2005 Howes received an inheritance from her mother, an inheritance that she failed to notify the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions about.  Despite the inheritance funds, Howes continued to receive pension credits for 7 years.

How did she justify her situation?  Howes insisted that the funds had been left with the express intent of caring for her mother’s 14 Persian cats and kittens in order to ensure they had the “best of everything.”  During the time in court, Howes was able to provide bank statements proving that all the inheritance funds had been used for was to provide care for the cats.  In fact, she had spent approximately $287 per week for general care and nearly $48,000 on vet bills over those 7 years.  She also built on additional space to her home to provide the cats with more living space and greater comfort.

The judge felt that Howes was not trying to be dishonest by not reporting the inheritance and that she did, in fact, use the funds only for the care of the pets according to her mother’s wishes.  She was cleared of the charges of benefit fraud.

While we can not speak to the laws of the United Kingdom, this is somewhat similar to a situation that we have seen here recently in the United States.  Michigan woman Amanda Clayton won a $1 million lottery and yet she continued to receive government aid through food stamps.  She stated that “I thought they would cut me off, but since they didn’t, I thought maybe it was okay because I’m not working.”  She also claimed that it was acceptable because she has two houses, no income and bills to pay.  Unfortunately for her, those answers were unacceptable and she was removed from assistance as soon as this was discovered.  In fact, a law is being passed to requires states to cross check the names of lottery winners over $1,000 to see if they are receiving government benefits.

The major difference here is that Howes was able to prove that the funds were intended and used for purposes other than her own care.  That is what allowed her to continue receiving benefits and avoid penalties.  Now, if her mother had set up a pet trust to dictate the exact amount to go to the cats and what manner of care was to be provided, the entire court proceeding could have been avoided.  In fact, the funds could be protected under a trust to ensure they were not even under Howes’ name.

Most of us do not have situations such as these.  However, it is important to ensure your estate is distributed according to your wishes – whether you wish it to go to your children, your pets or a charity, it is your decision!  For more information on how an MH Living Trust can protect and distribute your assets according to your wishes, contact us today at 888.222.1328.

Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall?  First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters.  Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones.  We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership.  If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.