Do you wish you could leave something in your will for your family pet? Many of us have a cat, dog or other pet that has been a part of our family for years. We consider them as important as any other member. Unfortunately, pets cannot own property, so they cannot inherit from your will. But you can still create a plan that will ensure your pet is taken care of after you die. Planning for the care of your pet can be incorporated into your overall estate plan.
Options for Pet Planning
The main concern regarding your pets, when you are involved in the estate planning process, is determining who will care for your pet and how can you make sure your pet is well cared for? Options range from informal arrangements to complex trusts. There are also many organizations that are dedicated to caring for pets after the owner’s death.
It is important to make arrangements with an individual or an organization that you trust and that is willing to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet. Whether you choose an organization or an individual, you need to discuss your desires openly and establish how the expenses for care will be met.
Pets in Your Will
Since pets cannot own property, you can’t leave money to your pet, per se. But you can leave your pet to someone you choose, along with the money to care for your pet. Understand, though, that this type of provision in your will does result in your pet legally belonging to the person you name, but that person will have no legal obligation to actually use the money for the pet. That is why it is important to choose someone you trust and to discuss your wishes ahead of time.
There is another more formal option, which is also more complicated and often more expensive. A pet trust provides a more formal, legal solution. With this type of trust, you can leave your pet, along with money, to someone you choose, and it would create a legal obligation for that person to care for your pet. Because of the legal obligation, if the caretaker you choose does not follow your instructions, he or she can be sued.
A pet trust typically contains terms that identify the pet(s) to be cared for, the name of the intended caretaker, the amount of money to be used to care for the pet(s), and what to do if there is money left over when the pet passes away. You can also specify any arrangements should you become unable to care for your pet before your death, for any reason.
What happens if I don’t make a plan?
When it comes to your estate, your pet is considered your property. So, what happens to your pet depends on whether you have a will or not. If you have a will, but you have not designated anyone in particular to take care of your pet, it will go to your residuary beneficiary, which is the person who gets the remainder of your estate after all other gifts have been made. If you did not have a will, then your pet will be distributed along with all of your other property, according to the laws of intestate succession in Arkansas.