Dogs: Super Bowl Ad Champions

Dog portraitBy Kimberly Napolitano

This year the New England Patriots will face the New York Giants in a re-match that is sure to draw a big audience.  The question is whether you will tune in for the Big Game or the Big Commercials.

Like years past, animals have taken center-stage on the commercial catwalk.  This year the apparent winner is Dogs (sorry, feline lovers).  Headlining the commercial buzz is Mr. Quiggly, who has replaced Kim Kardashian as our own Manhattan Beach-based Skechers USA’s claim to commercial fame.  Volkswagen also features dogs in its highly anticipated Super Bowl ad.  The LA Times reported that the teaser released by Marina del Rey’s own Deutsch LA for “The Bark Side” promoting VW, has already reportedly received over 9 million views.

Why are these commercials so successful?  Because we Americans LOVE our pets and, at least according to the marketing folks, we really love our dogs.  Which leads me to a question you may not have considered:  Exactly how much do you love your dog?

You may remember that Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her pet companion, Trouble.  Trouble had to tighten his collar a bit after human descendants contested and Trouble ended up with only $2 million for his food, bones, and spa treatments.

While we may not all have $12 million to leave to our pets even if we wanted to, a more serious and practical question arises:  Who will care for my pets if I cannot? 

Since 2009,  California law allows you to create a pet trust to leave money and instructions to those that survive you to care for your pet.  Be it Fluffy, Patch, or Rover, your pet needs a home in which it will be loved and money for food, vaccinations, veterinary expenses and a new tennis ball.  Since money cannot be left directly to a pet, you need to select a Trustee to manage Fido’s fortune and, most importantly, select a caregiver for your pet.  You should make sure that the intended caregiver is ready for the undertaking of a new pet to the house, so be sure to discuss your plans with the intended caregiver before you prepare your legal documents.  (Go ahead:  let the cat out of the bag!)  This caregiver will receive distributions from the pet trust to continue providing financial support until the pet’s death.  At the time of the pet’s death, any remaining funds in the pet trust should be directed to an alternate beneficiary.

Consider throwing your dog a bone and leaving a gift in your estate plan to provide for the expected and unexpected costs of owning a pet.  Working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can be certain to fulfill the technical requirements of a California pet trust and meet your personal goals of your pet’s care.  After all, most of us consider our pets as members of our family.  We certainly want to make sure they have a roof over their dog house, litter in their box, and someone to scratch them behind the ears, well after we’re gone.

So, whether you would prefer to see the Patriots or the Giants take home the championship this year, as you watch the Super Bowl ads and see the focus on our beloved pets, remember to take a moment to review your estate plan and make sure your pet is being treated like a real top dog.

Kimberly Napolitano, concentrates on the representation of individuals and families in all aspects of estate planning, business succession, asset protection, and the reduction of tax burdens.

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