Estate Planning Tips for Your Pets

Worried about who will take care of your beloved pets when you‘re not around? Make a pet estate plan to ensure a good life for your pets as you would do for your own children.

Planning for Pets

Pets don’t own property (as they themselves are someone’s property), which means that they cannot inherit from you in a Will. Also, you don’t want to give away your pets to somebody else with a part of your estate fund. That’s because it won’t legally oblige that person to use the fund exclusively for the pet’s care and that person can also lose their motivation for care, leaving your pets in a situation that is not ideal.
The best way to ensure a good life and care for your pets is to make an estate plan for them so that after your death, no hurdle should arise in their caretaking.

While creating your estate plan, make sure of the following:

  • Your pets must go into the hands of a person who loves and will care for an animal, as well as a responsible person who can and will take care of them as long as the pets live.
  • The caretaker isn’t deprived of the resources that will be required in the caretaking of the pets.

How to Do It

When making your estate plan, indicate to your estate planning attorney that you are willing to plan for your pets too. This can be done by adding a space under the ‘children’ section for ‘pets’. Also, include in your worksheet, the pet’s name, age, breed, and a short description about their requirements. This addition will reflect your willingness and firmness towards arranging for your pets in your estate plan.

About the Pet Trust

It’s better to incorporate additional provisions for a pet care trust in your revocable living trust than to have a standalone Animal Care Trust. That’s because establishing an independent Animal Care Trust has its own set of complications that you will certainly want to avoid. If you have an existing trust, you can simply amend the trust to add the additional Animal Care Trust provisions.

The pet trust provisions can be tailored to suit your pet’s requirements, but they generally name and describe your pet and provide that a certain portion of your estate is set aside to be used for its care. It also provides for the appointment of a caretaker who is responsible for the day-to-day care of the animal, and a trustee who will oversee the money and the caretaker, with powers to replace the caretaker.

Tips for Pet Estate Planning

There are certain things that you’ll need to take care of while making an estate plan for your pets. They include:

  • Choosing the right caretaker: It’s important to select a caretaker who shares great affinity towards animals and who has experience taking care of them. You can name an initial caretaker and two backups for consecutive terms. Don’t name more than one at once as it could set the stage of conflict over the animal.
  • Selecting an organization of last resort: You should also name a reputable rescue or no-kill shelter as an organization of last resort for your pet. This is for ensuring additional safety in case none of the caretakers are willing or able to take care of your pet.
  • Identifying the right successor trustee: Trustee abuse is always a concern when planning for an animal. To ensure it shouldn’t happen, discuss with your trustee about the special care you want for your pets. The trustee should be the one who likes animals and is committed to carrying out your wishes.
  • Instructions to the trustee and the caretaker: You should instruct in writing to the trustee on matters such as the use of the trust fund, compensation to the caretaker, and the type of required oversight. Caretaker instructions should address the type of care you want your pets to receive. These written instructions can also be in the form of a separate schedule incorporated and attached to the trust.

You never want to leave any family member on its own when you won’t be around for their care, and this includes your pets. Don’t forget to include the provision of caretaking for your pet while making your estate plan.

Jennifer Medeiros is an attorney who specializes in dealing with all matters of estate planning.
Call (949) 420-0025 for assistance.

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