IS ESTATE PLANNING JUST TO PROVIDE FOR PEOPLE?
No, people can provide for their pets in both their wills and trusts. Because pet owners develop strong bonds with their pets, providing for them legally can offer you peace of mind. In addition, if you die before your pet, such actions will ensure your pet’s safe future.
WHY SHOULD I HAVE ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS FOR PETS?
People often assume they will outlive their pets or if they don’t that a friend or loved one will take care of their animal. However, that’s doesn’t always happen. When people fail to provide for their pets the animal’s future will be uncertain. With appropriate estate planning documents in place you can avoid such a situation.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF I DON’T MAKE ADVANCE PROVISIONS?
If a family member of friend is unwilling to take your animal in, your pet could end up a stray or be placed in an animal shelter where depending on the individual circumstances it could possibly be adopted or euthanized.
WHAT CAN I DO TO SPELL OUT MY WISHES?
The best way to be certain your wishes are known is to make formal arrangements for the care of your animal. Such arrangements can include a special will, trust, or other documents. These documents should detail who will care for your pet and how the money will be provided to pay for this care.
IF I HAVE A WILL THAT MAKES PROVISION FOR MY PET, DO I NEED A TRUST?
Yes. A trust can start providing for a pet immediately. A will cannot. In addition, a trust can also be used if you are ill or incapacitated.
HOW DOES A PET TRUST WORK?
A pet trust works the same way a trust works for people: Money is set aside to provide for the pet’s care while trustees are selected to oversee the funds.
WHO SHOULD I DESIGNATE AS LEGAL CAREGIVER?
Choose someone you trust and who you are confident has good, common sense. Most people select a partner, adult child, parent, sibling or friend. A potential caregiver who has met your pet and has cared for their own pet is also a plus.
DO I NEED ALTERNATE CAREGIVERS?
Yes, alternate caregivers are a good idea in case your first choice is unable or doesn’t want to care for your pet.
CAN FAMILY MEMBERS/BENEFICIARIES CHALLENGE THE CAREGIVER?
Yes, but legal disputes can be avoided or minimized if you have a carefully thought out will and trust in place.
SHOULD I DISCUSS MY EXPECTATIONS?
Absolutely. You need to discuss your expectations with the potential caregiver so they understand the responsibility of caring for your pet. But, remember the new owner will ultimately be making all decisions involving your animal’s care-so select an individual you trust fully to do what is in your animal’s best interest.
WHO SHOULD I GIVE INSTRUCTIONS/COPIES TO?
After the will and/or trust are created, leave copies with the people you have chosen to be executors/trustees of your estate, as well as the pet’s designated caregivers. This way the caregivers can start caring for your pet as soon as possible.
CAN ANY ATTORNEY DRAFT A WILL/TRUST MAKING PROVISIONS FOR MY PETS?
It is best to use an attorney who regularly drafts wills, trusts, and estate plans. They are more likely to be familiar with the laws regarding such documents for pets and can ensure that your documents are drawn up in the most concise and clear manner so your wishes are followed.
HOW DO I FIND AN ATTORNEY TO DRAFT A WILL/TRUST MAKING PROVISIONS FOR MY PETS?
The State bar association can likely refer you to a lawyer who does such work. In addition, ask the lawyer if he or she has done this kind of work before and is familiar with it. Your local humane society may have a referral list as well.