Pets Are Often An Overlooked Concern in Estate Planning
Despite their ubiquitous presence across the United States, few people consider the needs of their pets in their estate plan. People tend to be so concerned with providing for their children and making sure that their assets are protected from taxes that they forget about the members of their family that are always there for them.
When you consider providing for your pet after you are gone, it is important to have all of the necessary information. If you are putting together an estate plan that addresses the issue of taking care of your pets, keep the following in mind.
Pets and Wills Tend Not To Mix
Many people may be tempted to provide for their pet through their will but this would be a mistake. Under New York law, animals cannot be the direct beneficiaries of gifts or inheritances. This means that if you leave money through your will to care for your pet, your pet cannot take possession of it and the gift or bequest will fail.
What a will can do for your pet is transfer ownership of your pet to another person after you pass on and fund a onetime gift to provide for their care. However, that is all. This is due to the fact that wills are only meant to dispose of property. A bequest under a will does not impose an enforceable promise upon the caretaker of your pets. This means that if you give someone ownership of your pets and money to take care of them, they do not have to honor or respect your wishes. In fact, the caretaker of your pets under a will could actually take possession of your pets and the money you granted for that purpose and then rehome the pets with someone else while keeping the money.
Pet Trusts Are Allowed In New York
If you do wish to provide for the continual care of your pet after you pass with specific instructions on how to do so, there is a tool available in New York to achieve such a goal and that is the pet trust. New York, as well as the District of Columbia, all explicitly allow the creation of a trust to provide for pets after the death of the owner. These types of trust allow for a caretaker under the trust to take care of the pets to the instructions of the past owner. The trust terminates at the death of the pets and any remaining funds in the trust may be granted to a charity or another named beneficiary.
Pet trusts have gained in popularity in recent years and it is easy to see why. People love their pets and many consider them family. Due to the limited lifespan of most animals and lower maintenance costs than a person, pet trusts are also generally easier to fund than other types of trusts while ensuring that your pet is taken care of to your specifications.