Monday, August 27, 2018
In a recent case in Pennsylvania, the court decided that even though animals are not persons under the legal definition, neither are they included in the entities that are exempt from the state's inheritance tax nor listed in the types of entities that have lowered inheritance tax rates. The Chester County Orphans' Court Divison ruled in Lesley G. King Estate ruled that trusts set up at death for the health and benefit of animals are subject to the full Pennsylvania inheritance tax rate of 15%.
King passed away on May 14, 2016, and in her will established a trust for several animals, including 2 horse, 2 dogs, 2 cats, and a flock chickens, in which the assets then would pass to other human beneficiaries after the last animal's death. When the executor filed the estate's tax return in 2017, Pennsylvania hit the $410,000 estate with a 15% inheritance tax. The representative claimed that because the inheritance tax is only assessed against persons that inherit and therefore the tax should not be assessed at all.
The court disagreed, finding that even though animals are still not to be seen as persons under the law, trusts for their benefit set up at death can be assessed the state's full inheritance tax.
See Amanda DiChello, Animals Who Inherit Money From Their Owners Pay Death Taxes Like Everyone Else, At Your Bequest, August 14, 2018.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.) for bringing this article to my attention.