When creating your estate plan, considering the future of your family pet is just as important as the other aspects of your plan. There are three options for creating provisions for your pet’s care after your death. A pet trust provides for a trustee to manage the care of your pet and ensure that your instructions will be followed in that regard. A pet protection agreement is a less expensive, legally enforceable method which provides basically the same protections as a pet trust. Finally, you can provide provisions for your pet in your will. However, a will is less formal and generally unenforceable when it comes to pet estate planning.
Pet provisions in wills are not legally enforceable
Although wills are useful tools in your own estate planning, they are not particularly effective in planning your pet’s future. The main reason for this is the fact that pet provisions included in a will are not legally enforceable. Remember, the essential purpose of a will is to distribute your property. What your beneficiaries do with that property after they receive it is not something you can control. This means that once your pet is given to the caregiver you have selected, that pet becomes his or her personal property. But the caregiver is not required to care for your pet, or even to keep your pet. He could just as easily turn your pet over to a pet shelter. The same would be true of any funds you leave to provide for your pet’s care. A will does not legally require the caregiver to use the funds in any particular way.
Wills do not provide for immediate protection
Something else to consider is the fact that it takes time before a will goes through the probate process. Until that process is completed, the pet will not be given to your chosen caregiver. So, there is no way to provide for your pet’s care during that time. Also, a will does not provide any protection for your pet in the event you become incapacitated. Wills are only effective upon your death. However, a pet trust or pet agreement can take effect upon your incapacity, so your pet will be protected. Even though there are some aspects of a will that do not make it the best option for pet planning, they can still be used in conjunction with a pet trust or a pet protection agreement.
If you have questions regarding pet provisions in wills, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.