Pets in your will you say? As a pet owner myself, pets are significant to a family and those caring for them. As a result, being creative with their care and long-term planning is a must.
Unfortunately, our estate laws treat pets as property, versus the loveable family members they really might be. This means having a plan for your pets is a legitimate planning goal.
Naming Pets In Your Estate
The preferred method of assuring your pet is cared for is the process of creating a “pet trust.”
From a practical perspective, this means creating a trust for your larger assets and including a specific claws (or clauses) exclusive to your pets. Ideally, the section takes into account the Trust Act.
On the other hand, a will can certainly be another method of caring for a cat or dog. But, animals needing care for medical issues or maintenance will likely benefit more from an owner deciding in favor of a pet trust versus other planning tools.
Pet Trust Claws
Obviously, nobody knows your furry friend better than you. But, there are many animal owners who forget the significance of adding a photograph to their trust, addressing feeding schedules, being clear on which veterinarian is desired, etc. In other words, a pet trust should be drafted in a way that is exclusive to your animals.
Also, an article of the trust can allocate money to the needs of your cat or dog. For example, suppose you have your animals groomed once per month and it costs $70 dollars per grooming. If your dog or cat was expected to live for 8 years, then ideally your pet trust would be funded accordingly.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean having $6,720 dollars readily available ($70 x 12 x 8). But this does might mean gifting a motor vehicle to the pet guardian selected that takes into account the maintenance of your four legged friend. Again, creativity is the name of the game when considering placing pets in your will.
Guardians Named In Your Trust
Money aside, selecting the best animal guardian in your will or trust means addressing this issue before it comes up. In other words, ask your friends and family members. Ask them whether they would be willing to care for your pet is highly encouraged.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Unless you ask, you may never know whether the person you selected is allergic to hair or physically unable to care for more than themselves. Thus, asking questions or interviewing potential guardians is a strong proactive move.
Are There Other Options
Yes, there are other options versus naming pets in your will. Whether you are considering a will, a trust, or want to leave a charitable contribution to an animal friendly organization, I think we all agree that our furry friends are family.
Estate Attorney Jasper Berg