Your pet cannot own his own property; therefore, as far as the courts are concerned, you cannot leave property to your pet. You can, however, ensure your pet is taken care of when you pass. To do so, make sure your estate plan covers two areas:
- Your pet goes to an organization or caring individuals;
- Your pet’s new caretaker is given the financial backing to care for him.
You have a few options when it comes to taking care of your pet. Whether you choose to make a simple arrangement or set up a complex trust, you can protect the future of your pet(s).
Using Your Will
You can’t leave money or property to your pet in your will. Even though he’s man’s best friend, he is still a pet. If you leave money or property to your pet in your will, the assets are rolled into a residuary account that is then distributed as the court sees fit. The good news is you can leave money to your pet in your will — through a caretaker.
A more common and reliable method to protect your pet in the future is through the pet trust. Pet trusts are more complex, but they leave your pet the money he needs for veterinarian care and other expenses. If the caretaker doesn’t follow the instructions in your pet trust, he can be sued. When you set up a pet trust with your estate planning attorney you will:
- State which pets are covered in your arrangement;
- State who the caretaker of your pets is;
- Determine how much money is left to your pet;
- Determine how your pet is cared for — including any special care instructions;
- Decide where the leftover funds will go if your pet passes away.