For many families, a pet is as much a valued member as the humans who own them. Many people don’t think of their pets as “someone” who should be covered by their estate plan but planning for pets is simple and easy.
Wouldn’t you want your pet to be covered just like any of your other family members? By using your estate plan, you can make sure that 1) your pet goes to a caring person after your death and 2) that this new caretaker has resources to take care of the pet.
There are several options for you and your pet after your passing.
You could start with a simple, non-legal arrangement between you and the future caretaker of your pet, or make a will or trust for your pet. Whichever arrangement you choose for your pet, make sure whoever you have appointed to take care of your pet is willing to do it. Just like with other estate planning matters, make sure you have a candid conversation with the future potential caretaker of your pet about how to care for the pet and what the associated costs will be.
In your will or trust, you are not allowed to leave money or property to your pet. However, you can use your will or trust to leave your pet to a trusted caretaker. Not only would you be able to name your pet’s caretaker in your will, but you would be able to set aside any money that you want for that caretaker to have to help cover the costs of the care for the pet. While you cannot compel your pet’s caretaker to use the money for that purpose, nevertheless you can encourage the caretaker to do so per the language in your will or trust.
Another option is to establish a pet trust. Pet trusts can be advantageous in that they create a legal obligation to care for your pet and provide accountability for the money you allocate for your pet’s care after your death. If you set up a pet trust, then you can leave your pet and money to take care of it to a caretaker and impose a legal obligation to care for your pet. Unlike putting your pet in your will, if your caretaker fails or refuses to follow your instructions, they could be sued.
In a pet trust, you would: 1) state pets that are covered; 2) name a caretaker for the pets; 3) leave an amount of money to be used for pet care; 4) describe how the pet should be cared for; 5) name a person to go to court and enforce the terms of the trust if necessary; 6) state what should be done with any money that’s left over when the animal dies; and 7) describe how your pet should be cared for if you can’t take care of it before your death.
The easiest option for providing for your pet’s healthcare is to simply leave your executor with instructions about who should be the next caretaker of your animal. This plan will only work if you completely trust your executor, and there is a unanimous agreement between yourself, the executor, and the person who you wish to take over care of your pet after your death. That said, if there is any disagreement about who should care for your pet after your death, then it may be a good idea to make legal arrangements for the care of your pet.
With this information in mind, be sure to think about your pet’s future and how you would like to protect it. Our furry friends are our biggest fans, so make sure you are treating your pet as well as it deserves to be treated by protecting its future.