Bird Law & Estate Planning?

By Kale Rogers of Peters Law Firm, P.C.

Documents on clipboards sit on desk.

If you’re unfamiliar with the highly specialized, seemingly imaginary area of law known as bird law, you’re not alone. My own dad, one of the partners here at Peters Law Firm, has no idea what it is. In fact, if you don’t watch the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about.

That’s okay because bird law has absolutely nothing to do with estate planning — it’s some made-up area of law from a TV show. However, it might help to show the problems that can arise if you don’t have a proper estate plan in place in the unfortunate event that something should happen to you.

While most people would be far more capable of handling their own legal affairs than Charlie Kelly, the area of estate planning has various nuances that even the smartest person may not be aware of unless properly educated in this specific area of law. For instance, let’s say you have a pet (a parakeet named Petey) that you want provided for if something should happen to you. You may not know that a pet is actually considered personal property and ineligible as a beneficiary of a will.

You could name a trustee for your pet parakeet, Petey, in your will, but the provision may not be legally enforceable. You could leave Petey to a relative or trusted caretaker through a will. But wills generally require probate — a time-consuming process — and Petey likely needs immediate attention. The common person probably wouldn’t know that Iowa Code Section 633A.2105 allows Honorary trusts for pets. An honorary trust may be set up for a specific purpose (e.g., to provide for a pet) but doesn’t require a definite beneficiary.

Because the nature of a trust allows it to become effective immediately upon its terms, you can rest easy knowing Petey will be taken care of. You can even give specific directions for care, veterinary attention, physical control, and more in the terms and provisions of the trust. This might be just one far-fetched scenario, but speaking with an attorney is the safest way to ensure that your estate plan is up to date and properly covers all of your needs and wishes, regardless of whether you own a bird or any pet.

Far too many times, we see people try to write their own will with the result of creating even more expense for themselves than if they had seen an attorney to begin with. While some people may only need a simple will and can do it themselves with online resources, the vast majority should speak with an attorney who will look at and handle their specific situation.

The template on Google won’t tell you just how many different ways there are to structure a will or all the various provisions to include depending on your situation. Or that you might want a trust instead of, or in addition to, a will. Or how to title ownership of real estate and other assets, beneficiary designations, etc. And what about the various power of attorney documents appropriate for almost everyone?

Speaking with one of our attorneys experienced in estate planning (Leo MartinJohn RasmussenScott Rogers) will make sure you and your family have protection in place well into the future and allow you to rest easy at night — unless you have a pet parakeet, that is.

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