Winnie the Pooh — a dachshund in New York City and not the beloved, honey-obsessed yellow bear — is running into problems with his $100,000 trust fund. He’s not getting enough money from it, according to a local report.
Patricia Bowers, the dog’s original owner, passed away in 2010 and left a trust fund so that Virginia Hanlon, her good friend and Winnie’s guardian, could care for the pooch until Winnie retires to that great farm upstate. This week, Hanlon alleged in a suit that she has not received enough money from the fund, which is administered by the estate’s executor.
Hanlon wants $6,000 a year, based on food and care estimates provided by the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. So far, the executor says she’s paid $5,775 for emergency surgery and distributed checks to Hanlon that have never been cashed. An October 2015 bank statement shows that the fund has $94,308.78 left.
The executor offered to cash out the fund and give $30,000 to Winnie’s guardian and the remaining to the Animal Medical Center, as stipulated by Pooh’s original owner. But the dog’s guardian refused, and now it’s up to the courts.
While the sum of money involved for one dachshund borders on the ridiculous, estate planning for beloved pets should be a serious consideration for the more than 79 million households that have a dog, cat or both. Pets are considered personal property and while a will can stipulate who gets your pet, it cannot enforce its care or disburse money for that reason, according to attorney Rachel Hirschfeld, who has written on these matters.
Instead, like Winnie’s owner, pet owners must create trust. The advantages of a trust are that it outlines how money is distributed to the pet guardian, the funds can be invested for growth and a trust is valid during the owner’s life and after death. That means a pet can follow an owner who must live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
“Only legally enforceable documents can guarantee a pet’s secure future,” Hirschfeld wrote. “Because of reasons as diverse as allergies, conflict with other pets, and exclusion of pets from rental apartments, the informal vows and promises made by friends and family to care for your clients’ pets often fail.”