It’s true that many pets end up in shelters after their owner dies or becomes incapacitated. In fact, the Humane Society estimates that between 100,00 to 500,000 pets are placed in shelters each year for this reason. Further, a large number of these animals are ultimately euthanized.
Unfortunately, the law considers pets to be personal property just like cars, furniture, and electronic devices. Therefore, unless you take the proper steps to include your pet in your Will and Trust, your beloved companion could end up in a shelter following your death or incapacity.
In light of this reality, here we’ll detail how you can use Wills and Trusts planning to ensure your pets receive the best possible care when you’re no longer able to care for them yourself.
Select A Caregiver For Your Pet
Selecting a trustworthy caregiver is the first step in protecting your pet via your Will and Trust. You might assume that your kids, relatives, or friends will step in and care for your pet should something happen to you. These folks may even tell you as much in conversation. However, properly caring for most pets is a major commitment of time, energy, and finances. Therefore, so you shouldn’t rely on simple promises to ensure your pet’s future is secure. It’s best to come up with a list of potential candidates.
After making the list of potential candidates, you should then have a frank talk with each of them, discussing the extent of care your pet requires and whether they have any personal issues (allergies, housing, children, other pets, etc) that might prevent them from providing the proper care.
If you don’t know any suitable caregivers, charitable groups can provide for your pet in the event of your death or incapacity.
Create A Detailed Care Plan
Once you’ve chosen your pet’s caregiver, you’ll need to then outline all of your pet’s care requirements. At the very least, your caretaking instructions should include your pet’s basic requirements. However, if you are like most pet owners, you probably want your pet to receive more than just the bare necessities. Therefore, you should consider leaving instructions for any other special treatment you want your furry friend to receive.
From special grooming arrangements to weekly visits to the park, your care plan can provide your beloved companion with whatever lifestyle you wish for them. Don’t forget to address what you want to be done at the end of your pet’s life, such as burial, cremation, and/or memorial services.
Funding For Your Pet’s Continued Care
When determining how much money to put aside for your pet’s care, you should carefully consider the pet’s age, health, and special needs. Remember, you’re covering the cost of caring for the animal for the rest of its life and basic expenses can add up over time. In addition to the bare necessities like food and vet visits, make sure you also calculate the costs for any special treatments or services you include in the care plan. If you end up leaving more money behind than needed, you can always name a remainder beneficiary to inherit any funds not spent on the pet.
Create A Pet Trust
Since pet care can be quite costly and complicated, the best way to ensure your wishes are properly carried out is to set up a pet trust. While it’s possible to leave care instructions and funding for your pet in a will, a will cannot guarantee the new caregiver will use the funds properly. In fact, a person who’s left their pet in a will can simply drop the animal off at a local shelter and keep the money for themselves.
On the other hand, a pet trust allows you to layout legally binding rules for how the funds in the trust can be used. Additionally, pet trusts work in cases of incapacity as well as death and they remain in effect until the last surviving animal dies.
To ensure your wishes are accurately carried out, you should name someone other than the caregiver as a trustee of the pet trust. This way, the trustee can manage the funds and make sure they are used as spelled out in your care instructions.
Do Right By Your Furry Family
Although leaving assets in a pet trust is fairly simple, creating a properly drafted trust that includes all of the necessary terms can be quite complex. Reach out to us, as your Personal Family Lawyer,® for support in creating your pet trust. We can make sure that your pet trust contains all of the necessary elements to guarantee that your beloved companions will continue to receive the care it deserves no matter what happens to you. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.
This article is a service of Levi L. Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents. We help to ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. This is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During this session, you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session for free.