Pet Trusts: Trusts for Your Pets
Whether you have a dog, cat, pig, bird or reptile, 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 we may think of pets as part of our family, the law considers them to be property. This means that you cannot leave anything in your will directly to a pet. The following are some steps to take to make sure your pet is protected:
1. Delegate a Caretaker for Your Pet.
Pick one or two people who can act as your pet’s caretaker should anything happen to you. Make sure they are willing and able to assume the responsibility. Write out care instructions for them and let them know how to access your house. If you don’t have anyone who can take care of the pet, there are organizations that will perform this service, although they vary in quality, so be sure to check out the organizations before choosing one, and contact us for help.
2. Create an Animal card for Your Pet.
What if something happened to you? Would anyone know to look for your pet to make sure they were being taken care of? You should keep a card in your wallet that identifies your pet and gives information on how to contact the designated caretakers. You can also affix a sign to your home’s door or window that, in case of an emergency, announces that you have a pet.
3. Give Power of Attorney Authorizing your Pet's Caretaker
Your power of attorney document can include language authorizing your agent to care for the pet, to spend your money to provide pet care, or to place your pet with a caregiver.
4. Use Your Will to Leave a Pet Caretaker
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.
5. Create a Pet Trust.
The most secure way to provide for a pet is to set up a pet trust, in which you name a trustee to ensure the pet is cared for. The trustee is obligated to make payments on a regular basis to your pet's caregiver and pays 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. Read our past post "Pet Trusts: Estate Planning for Pets."
Pet Trusts Could Be a Part of Your Estate Plan
To discuss a plan for your pet, contact Joseph L. Motta, elder law and estate planning firm in Avon Lake, OH. We understand how important pets can be, especially as they provide much needed companionship to aging adults. So don't let the fear of a pet out-living you deter you from the love and company of a furry friend. With our experience including pet trusts as part of your estate plan, you can be at peace that your companion will be well taken care of. Call 440-930-2826 to schedule a free consultation.