If your family is blessed with the companionship of a pet, then planning for your pet’s future is as critical to you in your estate plan as any other provisions. Though pet trusts have become quite common, there are other alternatives to pet trusts for you to consider; alternatives that may better suit your family situation.
Basic types of pet estate planning
There are three main estate planning tools used specifically for pet planning: wills, trusts and agreements. Pet trusts are very commonly used in pet estate planning. A trust creates a trustee relationship to manage the care of a pet and ensures that the desires of the pet owner are carried out, once the owner is no longer capable of caring for the pet. Pet trusts, like other trusts, can be complicated and expensive to create. However, alternatives to pet trusts are available.
Provisions can be included in your will
One very simple alternative to creating a pet trust, is to include specific provisions in your last will and testament. Those provisions identify who you have chosen to be your pet’s caregiver. There must also be a provision that establishes financial support for your pet’s care. Your will can set out your preferences, and your pet’s preferences, so that your pet can remain healthy and happy after you are gone.
There is a downside to simply including provisions in your will. The terms of a will are not legally binding on the caregiver of your pet. Once the pet is handed over to the caregiver, along with the funds you set aside for the care of your pet, the caregiver is not legally bound to keep the pet or to even spend the money for the benefit of your pet. A pet trust, on the other hand, is legally binding.
Pet protection agreements are useful
A pet protection agreement, is legally binding, but it is less formal and expensive than a pet trust. A pet protection agreement allows you to choose your pet’s caregiver, provide clear instructions on how to care for the pet, and establish financial support for the care. Essentially, it serves as a contract between you and the caregiver, which makes it legally binding. A pet protection agreement can either become effective only at your death or in the event you become incapacitated for any reason.
Pet sanctuaries are also available
A final alternative is to make provisions for your pet to be sent to a pet sanctuary. Pet sanctuaries are animal shelters that provide lifetime care for pets whose owners have passed away. There are many different types available so do your research and find the one you believe is the best for you and your pet. You need to also leave funds for your pet’s care. These provisions can easily be made in your will. This is a good alternative if you do not have anyone that would be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet. Just be sure to condition the gift on the understanding that the sanctuary will keep your pet for life.
If you have questions regarding pet trust alternatives or any other pet estate planning needs please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.
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