Although celebrities like real estate mogul Leona Helmsley and fashion designer Alexander McQueen have famously bequeathed money to their pets, several faculty members at a prominent law school are arguing that current laws regarding pet inheritances should be altered to better protect the estate administration rights of pet owners.

One law school professor recently published an article in the Florida Law Review calling for legislators to reconsider the issue of pet inheritance. She argues that current inheritance law is an outdated model based on the traditional family and ignores the fact that some American citizens are closer their pets than their relatives. Although some reforms have been undertaken, she concedes, such actions only provide partial or temporary solutions.

Currently, 12 to 27 percent of animal owners have listed their pets as heirs in their wills. Even though pet inheritance law has been legally recognized since 1923, the professor says that current laws lack the stability needed to facilitate pet owners that wish to leave money to their animals.

The expert used Helmsley's dog as an example. A probate judge reduced the dog's inheritance despite Helmsley's wishes. When the dog died, the remaining money entered Helmsley's charitable trust. Normally, such a gift would be tax deductible, but remains of pet trusts do not qualify for deduction, even if transferred to a charitable trust. Furthermore, Helmsley's wish that the remaining funds in the trust be used to promote animal welfare was ignored. This allowed trustees to distribute money to any charities, not just those focused on animals. Current law also prevented Helmsley's dog from being buried with her, as her will requested.

As can be deciphered, naming a pet in a will can become very complicated. Speaking with an experienced inheritance attorney may be helpful in making sure every detail is covered.

Source: Newswise, "Pet Inheritance: The Trouble with Trouble's Money," Aug. 5, 2011