For those of us who have pets that have become a part of our families, you are undoubtedly concerned about what will happen to them if you pass away. Regrettably, pets cannot be named as beneficiaries in your will, as under the law they cannot own property. However, it is still possible to create a plan that can provide for your pet after your death. So, what should a pet plan include?
Pet Planning Options
The main goal of pet planning is appointing a guardian to take care of your pet and provide sufficient funds for the care and support for your pet. Pet planning options can range from informal agreements to complex trusts. The benefit of establishing a pet plan is that you can consider all aspects of your pet’s care, all preferences that you and your pet may have, and include complete instructions for the future, giving you peace of mind. You can include any types of instructions you desire, however, there are at least four topics that should definitely be addressed in your pet plan.
Appointment of a caregiver to take care of your pets. You need to specifically name the person you want to actually care for your pet after your death. You can also name an alternative, in the event the person you have selected cannot take care of your pets for any reason.
Provide instructions regarding your pet’s needs and normal routines. Make sure to include the name of your pet’s veterinarian, any pre-existing medical conditions, exercise and dietary needs or restrictions, preferred groomer and boarding facility, and burial arrangements, if you have made any.
Appoint a trustee to manage your pet’s care. The trustee can be the same person as the caregiver, or a separate individual. The role of the trustee is to make sure that your wishes are being carried out in the manner that you designated in your plans, and that the designated funds are actually being spent on the care of your pet.
Provide a source of funds for your pet’s care. With the assistance of your estate planning attorney, you can estimate the amount of money necessary to cover the expenses for your pet’s needs and health care. This money should be placed in the trust, which will safeguard the funds so they are only used for the care of your pet. You should also be sure to include a provision regarding who should receive any money that is left over after the pet dies.
Why is having a pet plan so important?
Your pets are dependent on you for their survival, just as young children are dependent on their parents. Planning in advance for your unexpected incapacity or death will give you peace of mind, knowing they will be cared for the way you want them to be. According to some statistics, there are an estimated 500,000 pets per year are orphaned and tragically euthanized due to the death or disability of their owners. Despite an impressive 67% of pet owners considering their pets to be members of the family, only 12% have included them in their estate plans. You cannot be sure to outlive your pets, but they will always need your care and support.
If you have questions regarding a pet planning, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.