If you have a pet, you likely have a plan for the pet in place in case you go on vacation or out of town. You might even have created an estate plan to designate a certain person to take care of the pet in case something unexpectedly happens to you. Many people, however, fail to create an estate plan to address a situation where they become incapacitated and no longer able to take care of the pet. As a result, this article reviews some helpful strategies to follow when planning for the care of your pet when you are no longer able to do so.
Realize the Importance of Adequate Planning
The best place to begin planning for your pet is with an understanding of what would happen to the animal if you did not have an adequate insurance plan in place. The likely result is that a court would appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. This individual would subsequently be authorized to make decisions for the care of your pet. Unless you trust this person to do what is right with the animal, there is always a chance that the individual might decide that it is in your best interest to get rid of the animal. Consequently, it is a good idea to create an estate plan to make sure that the animal receives adequate care.
Option # 1 – Durable Power of Attorney
Some people decide to leave control of the pet to the person who is appointed to act as a financial agent following that person’s incapacity. This individual would be entitled to make decisions about your finances and property, which would include the pet. While it might be easier than other methods to care for an animal in this way, doing so means that you will not be able to leave instructions about the care the animal should receive.
Option # 2 – Revocable Living Trusts
Revocable living trusts can be used to clearly describe the type of care that the pet should receive in case you die or become incapacitated. The person who is appointed to follow the terms of the trust will be bound to these requirements. While the instructions might be more complex, this can be an excellent idea if you would like to leave specific care-related instructions.
Option # 3 – Standalone Pet Trusts
An additional option is to establish a standalone pet trust, which exists only to make sure that the pet receives sufficient care. All of the assets in the trust are used to pay for the care that the pet receives. Trusts of this nature provide you with control over what happens to the pet. There are, however, challenges involved with establishing this type of trust including that these trusts are costly to establish and almost always required the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney.
Option # 4 – Appointing an Animal Life-Care Center
Some people decide to have a pet placed in an animal life-care center after the person’s death or incapacity. The pet then receives top-notch care by veterinary students or people trained in how to best care for animals. Because the costs of these centers are extremely high, however, this option is often only available to people with high incomes.
Speak with a Skilled Estate Planning Lawyer
It can be easy to delay adequate estate planning for your pet, but you should not hesitate to do so. An attorney with pet planning experience can help make sure that your goals are achieved. Contact Ettinger Estate Planning today to schedule a free case evaluation.