Q: How can I provide for my pet in my estate planning?
–Concerned Pet Owner
A: Dear Concerned:
Many people have concerns about what will happen to their beloved pet when they die. Because so many of us view pets as family members, it’s no wonder their well being comes up during estate planning. Unfortunately, not many pet owners know how to ensure their pet will be well cared for after they die. The good news is there are several protective measures you can put in place to ensure your pet will be well cared for.
Wills typically lay out how an individual’s property will be distributed. Pets are considered property from a legal perspective, so you can identify whom you want to have ownership of your pet when you die in your will. Wills aren’t ironclad, however, and while the legal ownership of your pet may be legally enforceable, other specific directives on the care and custody of your pet are not.
Pet trusts add further protection. A pet trust can provide legally enforceable instructions and guidelines for how your pet will be provided for. Trusts can also give instructions for when you are incapacitated and are valid while you’re living as well as after your death. They provide extra layers of financial protection and can ensure funds for the care of your pet are protected and properly managed.
Beyond the fundamental protections these two legal documents can provide, you may also consider drafting a contract for detailed instructions on how your pet should be cared for in any situation. Such a contract can be drafted like a parenting plan, providing an even more comprehensive layer of protection. Not all such plans are legally enforceable, however, and you will need to work with a Personal Family Lawyer® to create a plan that looks out for your pet’s best interests.
To include your pet in your estate plan, meet with us for estate planning guidance. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, they can offer Family Wealth Planning Sessions that help you protect and preserve your wealth for future generations. Before the session, they’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment™ to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you and what you want to leave behind.