Your Last Will and Testament is used to tell everyone who should get your property after your death. Yes, your pet is considered your property and you could include provisions in your will regarding your pet. However, that is not the only option, and it may not be the best option. Clients often ask which is better for pet planning – a pet trust or a will. The answer depends on each client’s needs, so let’s compare.
Methods for creating your pet plan
There are three estate planning options for pet owners who need to plan for the future care of their beloved pet. Pet owners can include provisions in their last will and testament, they can execute pet protection agreements, or they can establish a pet trust. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, just as most things do.
If you use your will, you can include provisions that give the pet to a caregiver, while leaving sufficient funds to pay for your pet’s care. With a pet trust, you can appoint a trustee to manage your pet’s care.
Pet planning provisions in a will are not legally binding
The reality is, a simple provision in your will does not adequately protect your pet’s future. The main reason is that the instructions you include in your will are not actually legally enforceable. A will only tells the courts how you want the property in your estate to be distributed after your death.
This means that after your pet is distributed to the person you indicate in your will, the court’s authority ends. Technically, your chosen caregiver has no obligation to keep your pet, much less use the money you set aside for the benefit of your pet. Neither the court, nor the terms of the will, can force the caregiver to do anything in particular for your pet.
Pet provisions in a will do not apply in the event of incapacity
Another disadvantage of using a will for pet planning is the fact that the terms only go into effect upon your death. So, if for some reason you become incapacitated, there won’t be any arrangements in place for the care of your pet.
Even at your death, the terms will not go into effect immediately. Instead, your will is required to go through the court probate process, which takes time. How much time depends on the nature of your estate. Regardless, the care of your pet will be postponed until the final settlement of your estate by your administrator and the court.
The advantages of using pet trusts in pet planning
Pet trusts are better at protecting your pet’s future than a simple will provision. A trust can be created so that it becomes effective upon your death or in the event you become incapacitated. This means that, in the event the owner becomes incapacitated, the terms of the trust can go into effect immediately.
Another benefit of a pet trust is the owner’s power to control the disbursement of the funds for use in caring for the pet. In fact, you can appoint an independent trustee who will be responsible for distributing the funds to the caregiver. The trustee can invest the funds, for the benefit of your pet, and also ensure that the caregiver is following the terms of your trust.
If you have questions regarding a pet trust, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact Wilcox Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (479) 443-0062.
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