For many people, pets are more than just entertainment. They can easily become part of your family, making memories more special and providing endless enjoyment for their human companions. Given the important role pets play in our lives, it is important to consider them when engaging in estate planning. This is especially true when an individual has a less traditional pet or a pet with special needs that may require extensive care were the pet’s human companion to pass. There are several ways to ensure that your pet or pets are taken care of should something happen to you.
While we may view pets as being a member of the family, the law sees them as property. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you include specific provisions in your Will that name the person or persons that will be responsible for caring for your pet. You will also have the opportunity to set aside funds for pet care in your Will. It is important to be specific about whom should inherit your pet as well as what assets you ill bequeath them, if any. It is also a good idea to discuss pet care with the person you have in mind prior to naming them in your Will to determine whether or not they are in a position to adequately care for your pet.
Pet trusts have gained popularity in recent years, especially since they are capable of serving a dual purpose. They can be established to provide financial support for pet care and related expenses after your death. They can also be structured to provide the same financial security during your lifetime in case you were to become disabled and unable to care for your pet the way you would like. Were this to happen, a pet trust could help make sure that your pet remains with you and is adequately cared for as long as your circumstance permit. They can also make sure your pet is provided for during a period of hospitalization, recovery, or other time period related to your inability to care for them. In this way, a pet trust can provide for your pet in a way that your Will cannot. However, it is still very important to make sure that the trustee who will administer the pet trust is aware of your wishes and that anyone you name as a caretaker for your pet is willing and able to perform that role.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have a rescue dog or an exotic iguana, chances are you love your pet a great deal. Therefore, it is important to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about how to make sure your pet, or future pets, are taken care of in the event of your disability and/or death. Your estate planning attorney can help you explore the options available to you and aid you in choosing the one that most closely matches your needs. There are many aspects of comprehensive estate planning that can be overlooked, but as anyone who has a pet knows it is important to make sure that your less traditional family members are not forgotten.