Most people use their estate plan to leave the bulk of their belongings to their spouse, their children or both. However, a person’s will can name as beneficiaries virtually any person or charity they wish.
Occasionally, people even name their pets as beneficiaries. Most of us love our pets, but would not consider directly including them in the estate plan. But a Florida woman recently announced that she is leaving her $1.8 million house to her Maltese terrier.
The woman says the dog, whose name is Bella Mia, is a “gift from God.” The dog recently turned three, and the woman and her husband decided to bequeath the house to the dog as a birthday present.
Bella Mia is also included in a trust fund the woman has set up for her adult sons. She receives $100,000 a year, which is spent on weekly pedicures, regular visits to a groomer and dog clothing.
No doubt, many readers are questioning whether this is a good use of the woman’s fortune. Whether or not it is, this story demonstrates that an estate planning attorney often can be creative when it comes to fulfilling clients’ wishes. Even an unusual desire, like bequeathing part of the estate to a dog, may be possible.
However, this story is also a reminder that estate plans are not set in stone. Bella Mia is still young for a dog, but her “mother” is only 60, and an article about the story does not indicate that she has any serious health issues. If she outlives Bella Mia, the testator may have to amend her estate plan to name a new beneficiary for the house.