Who can forget "Trouble?" She was the little Maltese that inherited $12 million when hotel heiress Leona Helmsley passed away in 2007. "Trouble" spent the rest of her days with a caretaker at a Sarasota hotel until she died in December 2010.
But the fact is, no matter how rich you are or aren't, if you don't make a plan for what happens to your pet when you die or are incapacitated, it could end up at a shelter, or worse.
Don and Dana Ibold of Oviedo, Florida are determined that won't happen to their dogs, Shade and Ripley.
With their nearest human family members living 1,500 miles away, they created a pet trust to make sure their dogs will always be cared for.
"I actually have a t-shirt, no kids, just dogs. They're our family. It's the four of us. They mean everything to us," Don said.
The Ibold's pet trust leaves all their assets to their dogs.
"Basically, we both go, and they get everything. That's what we wanted. Everything. The house. Everything," Dana said.
They took that step a few years ago after reading attorney Peggy Hoyt's book, "All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pets."
Hoyt is a partner and founder of The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan, LLC, which specializes in wills, trusts and estate planning. She's also an ardent animal lover.
"Sometimes I like to say I represent pets and their people," she's fond of saying.
She also knows what can happen when people don't plan for their pets. She says it shouldn't be something you just leave to chance, or expect family members to handle.
"There's lots and lots of horror stories out there, you know, kids who don't want the responsibility for the pets and just open the back door -- and there they go. Or drop them off at the nearest shelter," Hoyt said.
Hoyt's passion for animals began at home. Her father, John Hoyt, was President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States for 27 years.
Her dad passed away last year, but his legacy is alive and well in Hoyt's practice. She is the pet parent to three horses, six dogs and four cats -- and she has included all of them in her own estate planning.
She says all of her clients with pets have too.
"A hundred per cent. Because I encourage them to say, at least, who is going to get the pets, and a backup or two. Now, if they're leaving the pet to somebody who is not a family member, I also encourage them to leave money for the care of that pet," Hoyt said.
That's what the Ibolds are doing. Their trust leaves their assets to the dog in the care of a trusted friend, who will take care of Shade and Ripley for the rest of their lives. Don Ibold says it'll be up to the guardian to decide how to do that.
"They can do it as they want. If they want to move in here, fine. If they want to sell the house and go back to their place, that's fine. It's 100 percent up to them," he said.
When the dogs die, what's left will go to the guardian, which the Ibolds consider a "thank you" to the person who takes care of their beloved dogs.
They're relieved. They say making the decision to set up a pet trust took a huge burden off their minds.
"I think it's a wonderful thing to do for your dogs...if you have children, well, you should still take care of your dogs," Dana said.
To find out more about pet wills and trusts:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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