Attorneys publish new book about establishing pet trusts

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

It’s not only frogs that croak.

So, inevitably, do humans – and when we shuffle off this mortal coil, our four-legged loved ones may end up homeless, in shelters, or euthanized. Don’t assume family or friends will welcome your pet pal with open arms.

Attorneys Barry Seltzer and Gerry Beyer address the issue in their book, Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs: How To Leave (Some Of) Your Estate To Your Pet, providing “everything you need to know to protect your pet if you become sick or die.”

  Whiskers and Woofles might not get as lucky as hotel heiress Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble, who was left a hefty multi-million-dollar bequest. But you can plan to provide kibbles, care, and companionship for your pets.

Beyer, a Michigan native from Grand Haven who earned his undergrad degree at Eastern Michigan University, is the Gov. Preston E. Smith Regents Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock.

Although he and his wife Margaret don’t currently have pets because of their extensive travel schedules, he is nonetheless passionate about pets and their well-being, and is an acknowledged expert on estate planning for pet owners and author of a large number of articles and papers on the subject.

 Seltzer, a Canadian attorney based near Toronto who specializes in estate planning, estate administration, business succession planning and elder law, currently has three pets – a blue tongue skink lizard called Baloo, python snake called Viper, and a small brown rat called Lucky. In the past, he has had a Coton de Tulear dog called Hippy, two Boxers called Rebel and Rocky, a multitude of birds, a rabbit called Oreo, and a hamster.

“I’ve always had pets, from my childhood to present day,” he says, adding that his pets have had a profound influence on his view of the world and of people’s relationships with animals. A frequent television and radio guest in Canada, the United States, England and Australia, Seltzer has co-authored several other books and has lectured at many colleges, universities and institutions.

A pet is a lifetime commitment, and planning in advance for their wellbeing is a moral obligation, the authors say.

The book, that took several years to research and write, addresses how to set up and fund a pet trust through an attorney. It includes pets throughout history, pets of the rich and/or famous, expected life spans, exotic animals, sample will provisions for pets, U.S. state pet trust statutes, sample pet trust provisions, after-death services for pets, virtual pet cemeteries and memorial sites, pet loss support resources, animal retirement homes and more.

Divorce attorneys take note: amongst the books “cool factoids” is this gem: “A recent survey revealed that more pet owners would rather be stranded on a desert island with their pets than their spouse.”

Seltzer and Beyer, who received kudos from actor and activist Ed Asner, media personality Martha Stewart, and Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito, say their book is a vehicle for sharing information and ideas with the public, and for providing guidance for pet owners.

  “We believe our book is of value to everyone concerned with companion animal care and would be of significance for all animal lovers,” Seltzer says. “We also want to stimulate people to take action while they’re able to do so.

“Gerry and I, and all those who have contributed to the creation of our book and continue to do so, sincerely hope to benefit as many companion animals, their caregivers, all animals and animal lovers  – so as to encourage them to plan for their families and pets while they are capable of doing so, to ensure their well-being to the extent possible in advance of their inability to do so.”

For more information, visit And pick up an extra copy of the book for Bowser.