Did you include pets in your will? Do you know where your pets will go if you die? As a pet owner myself, pets are significant to you and your family.
Yes, having a plan for your pets when you die is a real concern and goal for people creating an estate plan.
Therefore, if you are no longer able to care for your pet(s), where will they go?
Pets in your will versus preferred method
The preferred method of assuring your pet is cared for is the process of creating a “pet trust” in accordance with rules of the Trust Act. To keep things simple, a pet trust is a document drafted on your behalf that entails rules how to care for your pet. A pet trust would be drafted in a way that is exclusive to your pet or pets.
For example, your pet trust can outline grooming preferences, treat schedules, feeding requirements, and veterinarian check-ups. Also, a pet trust can help the caregiver manage cost or understand when it is appropriate for a night stay in a kennel and when it isn’t.
Obviously, nobody knows your pet better than you. This means outlining details specific to your pet is important.
Also, a pet trust can include money that is specifically allocated for the needs of your pet. As an example, lets suppose you have your pet groomed once a month and it costs $35 per session. If your pet was expected to live for 8 years, then ideally your pet trust would be funded to account for grooming over the next 8 years. Yes, a pet trust can be funded as you see important.
On the other hand, some people do not want to fund a pet trust and prefer to add their pets in their will.
Who should care for your pet?
The most important part of a pet trust is including or naming a list or ranking of people or entities you believe will care for your pet when you need it most.
It is the opinion of this law office that a pet owner should spend a reasonable amount of time thinking through a list of people who can offer care to your pet as you deem acceptable.
In other words, making a list of people who can care for your pet is a lot harder than it might first appear.
Putting pets in your will
Yes, you can identify pets in your will. Most wills have a section for “specific gifts“. In this section, a person can identify their pet and who acquires your pet when you yourself pass.
On the other hand, problems ensue when the person you selected doesn’t actually want your pet or worse, does not have money to care for your pet as you did. For this reason, a pet trust is again the preferred method versus putting pets in your will.
In addition, a person who takes time to have a will drafted and formalized should consider ways to reduce the likelihood of having the will challenged in court. This means a person should not attach a monetary gift to their pet. If you search the internet, you will find examples where a pet and a lump sum of $5,000 was granted to a friend or family member.
Unfortunately, putting pets in your will and including a dollar figure does not always prevent your friend or family member from using the money for themselves. For this reason, a pet trust is the preferred method of caring for your pets upon incapacity.
Are there other options to including pets in your will?
Yes, there are other options versus a pet trust or naming your pets in your will. For some people, a revocable trust is the best option to name friends and family as the caregiver for their pet. Other people like to use a form called a power of attorney.
The best process or tool to help your pets is to organize your property or stuff. Next, this law office encourages people to make a list of people they know and trust. Then, it is easier to engage in a conversation focused on caring for your pets or other loved ones in a time of need.
Final thoughts about pets in your will
If you have a pet or are worried how to care for your pet the moment you are incapacitated, please contact this law office for help.