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Putting our trusts in names of pets comes late to Minnesota

Some readers may remember the headlines when hotelier Leona Helmsley died and famously made her dog, Trouble, heir to a $12 million trust fund. That's something that loving pet owners in Minnesota can't do as part of their appropriate estate planning right now, but that could soon change.

Among the measures on the agenda of the current legislative session is one that would make it possible for pet owners to create trust funds for their furry, feathered or other-coated loved ones.

The way things stand currently, Minnesotans can only make provisions for their pets in their wills. They can set aside a certain amount of money and articulate that it be spent for the care and welfare of their animals in the event of the owner's death or incapacity. But how the money actually is spent is left in the hands of the administrator of the estate.

Language in the proposal reportedly makes clear that the trust could not be used to allow the creator to avoid financial obligations such as taxes. At least one Republican supporter in the House measure says that means it wouldn't cost the state anything if lawmakers gave it the thumbs up.

What may perhaps be most surprising about this bit of legislation is that it comes so late to the table in this state. Minnesota is fairly well known as being on the progressive side of things. And yet, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, every other state in the union has already put animal trust laws on their books.

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