Whether your pet has been in your family for years, or if you just added a new friend to the family, pets play an important role in the lives of their family members. So, it is vital that you consider, and plan for, the future care of your pet. In the event you become incapacitated, or you die and your pet has survived you, there needs to be a plan for your pet’s care. In order to create the best pet plan, you should understand the consequences that come with having no pet plan established before your death or incapacity.
Where does my pet go if I die?
If you have not created a pet plan, where your pet ends up depends, in part, on whether you have a will or not. Under the law, a pet is simply considered to be personal property. This means, your pet will become part of your estate along with all of your other assets. If you have a will, your pet will end up with either the person who your pet is given to under your will or the person you have named as your “residuary beneficiary.” That is, the person who will inherit all that remains of your estate after all other bequests have been made, according to the terms of your will. On the other hand, if you do not have a will, your pet will be distributed to your heirs, along with all of your other personal property, in compliance with your state laws of intestate succession.
What happens if no one is willing to care for my pet?
Most pet owners assume that at least one of their relatives will be willing, if not eager, to care for their pets after their death. Caring for pets is a huge responsibility, and not all of your relatives will be willing or able to take on that task. They may have busy schedules or personal restrictions that prevent them from taking on this responsibility. In that case, the only other option may be to surrender your pet to a pet shelter, where there is a huge risk your pet may ultimately be euthanized.
Can provisions be included in my will for my pet’s care?
Pets obviously cannot own property because they are considered to be property themselves. So, you cannot simply leave money to your pet in your will. What you can do is include provisions to leave your pet to a chosen caregiver, along with sufficient funds to provide for the necessary care. The problem is, with this method, the individual you choose to care for your pet is not actually bound, legally, to care for your pet or to use the funds for that purpose. If you still want to use this method of pet planning, be sure to discuss your wishes with the person you name as caregiver, so that you feel confident that person will follow through with your wishes.
Creating other arrangements for your pet
In contrast to the less formal will, there are two other methods of pet estate planning that are legally enforceable. A pet trust is a formal, and often more costly, way to create a pet plan. With a pet trust, you can leave your pet to a chosen caregiver, and include in the trust agreement very specific provisions for your pet’s financial support.
The other, less formal option, is to draft a pet care agreement. While less expensive and less formal, a pet care agreement is a contract.
If you have questions regarding pet plans, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Wilcox Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.
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