Pets are members of the family, so it is important to consider how to provide for them in your estate plan just as you would the human family members.
While some people are fortunate to have family members who can take responsibility for a family pet, others may need to have a formal document to leave funds aside for their pet and ensure that their pet will be taken care of.
While we may think of pets as part of our family, the law considers them to be personal property. This means that you cannot leave anything in your will directly to a pet. You can use your will to leave a pet to a caretaker along with money to care for the animal. Be aware, however, that the caretaker does not have a legal obligation to use the money on the pet. Once the caretaker has possession of the pet, he or she does not have to keep the pet or care for it in any particular manner. As long as you trust the person you are leaving the pet with, this shouldn’t be a problem. Another downside of using a will rather than a trust for provisions of the pet is that there will be a delay in executing the will due to the probate process.
A trust, on the other hand, is an ideal tool to give someone immediate responsibility and the financial means to make ensure your pet is cared for. The trustee can select a good caregiver (if your options are no longer available) and they can make payments on a regular basis to your pet’s caregiver and pay for your pet’s needs as they come up. The trust should include the names of the trustee and caretaker, detailed care instructions, and the amount of money necessary to care for the pet.
To discuss a plan for humans and pets, please contact our office.