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Happy Puppy

Herndon woman sets up trust for her dog

For people like Jackie Kud, planning for the unfortunate can include taking care of loved ones who are not necessarily human.

If anything happens to her, her dog Mingo won’t have a lot to worry about. Jackie made sure Mingo will be taken care of.

"It’s kind of a safety net so this crazy little dog wouldn’t end up having to be put down or something," she said.

Jackie got Mingo about two years ago from the Northern Virginia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Mingo, a male cocker spaniel and border collie mix, now attends the Dog Days Playcare in Chantilly three times each week.

"As a working professional, I don’t really believe I should be coming home and he should be alone all the time while I’m at work," she said.

According to Jackie, Mingo is a very active dog. At Dog Days, he gets to play and even takes a nap during the day.

"He gets to socialize with other dogs all day long," she said.

To that end, she contacted Peter King, attorney-at-law in the Hauswiesner King law firm, who helped her set up a trust for Mingo.

As part of the process, Jackie picked a trustee who would have access to any money set up for Mingo. Jackie chose her cousin, Kevin Kud, who lives with them in their home in Franklin Farms in Herndon and has developed a relationship with the dog.

"Over time, they’ve really bonded and I think naturally Kevin would want to be his guardian, so to speak, if something were to happen to me," Jackie said. "I’d like to set aside money for the person who would take care of Mingo if, God forbid, something were to happen to me."

King said people said people set up such trusts for reasons similar to Jackie’s.

"The pets play a large role in people’s lives," King said. "They’re important to them."

Such trusts are easier to set up now, according to King.

In July of 2006, Virginia became the 38th state to allow trusts for pets, which had previously not upheld in courts frequently. The trust, allowed in Virginia Code 55-544.08, allows the writer of the will to name a caretaker, specific activities and treatment for their pets and plan for the pets’ passing. The pet, however, must be alive during the writer’s lifetime. For example, a person may not set up a pet trust for their pet’s possible future children. A trust can also allow for the caretaking of a pet if the owner is incapacitated.

So far, King has only seen a few cases, so he is trying to spread the word about this option for trusts for those who may be interested. Although it has been easier to set up since July of last year, King said a lot of people still don’t know about it.

"That’s why there haven’t been many so far," he said.

Jackie found out about the availability of such trusts when she learned that King made a donation to the Animal Welfare League in Alexandria. Then King told her all about it and they started the process, which Jackie said was relatively easy. Working exclusively with King, she found the paperwork was straightforward and the entire process took less than one month even though they were working around Jackie’s schedule.

"It’s nice to know that somebody will be taking care of my dog and they’ll have enough financial resources should something happen to me," she said.

Jackie encourages everyone who cares about their pets to plan for the possibility of the pets being left alone.

"Once they’ve already been adopted once, it becomes harder for them to acclimate to a new home," she said.

King can be reached at Hauswiesner King LLP at 8200 Greensboro Drive, Suite 900 in McLean, Va. or by phone at (703) 462-5478. Information on the firm can also be found at www.h-klaw.com.