Protect Your Furry Family: Estate Planning For Your Pets
Many pets find themselves in shelters when their owner passes away or becomes incapacitated. The Humane Society estimates that between 100,000 to 500,000 pets are placed in shelters each year for exactly this reason, and a large number of these animals are ultimately euthanized. Unfortunately, pets are considered by the law to be nothing more than personal property, just like cars, furniture, and electronic devices. If you don’t include your pet in your estate plan, your beloved companion could end up in a shelter or worse if you die or become incapacitated.
Here we’ll detail how you can use estate planning to ensure your pets receive the best possible care when you’re no longer able to care for them yourself. Get legal advice from your lawyer so that you may plan for the future care of your pet.
Choose A Pet Caregiver
The first and most essential step in protecting your pet via an estate plan is to choose a trustworthy caregiver. You may believe that your children, relatives, or friends would step in and care for your pet if anything were to happen to you, and these people may even tell you so in conversation. However, properly caring for most pets requires a significant investment of time, energy, and money, so you shouldn’t depend on simple assurances to ensure your pet’s future security.
It’s best to make a list of potential candidates and then have an open conversation with each of them about the level of care your pet needs. And if they have any personal issues (allergies, housing, children, other pets, etc.) that may prohibit them from giving adequate care. If you do not have any suitable caregivers, charity organizations such as the Safe Haven® Surviving Pet Care Program may care for your pet in the case of your death or disability.
Create A Care Plan in Detail
After you’ve selected your pet’s caregiver (along with one or two backups in case your first option is unavailable), you’ll need to list all of your pet’s care requirements. Your pet’s fundamental needs, such as dietary needs, exercise routine, medicines, and veterinary care, should be included at the absolute least in your caretaking instructions.
However, if you’re like most pet owners, you probably want more than just the basic needs for your pet, so provide instructions for any extra special care you’d want to give your furry buddy. Your care plan may give your cherished pet any lifestyle you want for them, from special grooming arrangements and delicious treats to weekly visits to the park and favorite toys. Finally, consider what you want to do to your pet at the end of their life, such as burial, cremation, or memorial ceremonies.
Financial Assistance For Your Pet’s Continued Care
You should carefully consider your pet’s age, health, and special care needs when deciding how much money to set aside for its care. Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for the animal’s care for the rest of its life, and even the most basic costs may mount up. Additionally, be sure to account for the expenses of any specialized treatments or services you include in the care plan and set aside funds to cover those costs. Then you may designate a beneficiary, such as a family member or a charity, to receive any cash left over after the pet is taken care of.
Create A Trust For Your Pet
Given the complexity and expense of pet care, setting up a pet trust is the best way to ensure your wishes are followed out. While it is feasible to include care instructions and money for your pet in your will, there is no assurance that the new caregiver will utilize the funds appropriately—or even that they will care for your pet at all. Indeed, a person who leaves their pet in their will may simply dump it off at a local shelter and retain the money. On the other hand, a pet trust enables you to establish legally binding rules for how the funds in the trust can be used. Additionally, pet trusts may cover numerous pets, are effective in the event of incapacity or death, and continue in force until the last surviving animal dies.
To guarantee that your intentions are carried out properly, you should choose a trustee who is not the caretaker. This enables the trustee to handle the assets and ensure that they are used exactly as specified in your care instructions.
Do the Right Thing for Your Furry Family
Though transferring assets to a pet trust is quite simple, creating a properly drafted trust that includes all of the necessary terms can be quite complex. To this end, contact us, your family lawyer, for assistance in creating a pet trust. They can ensure that your pet trust contains all of the necessary elements to ensure that your beloved pets get the love and care they deserve regardless of what happens to you.
This article is a service of Greg Gordillo, Family Business Lawyer™. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all