When families begin the estate planning process, one of the issues they are often concerned about is the family pet. What happens to your dog, cat, bird, or other animals if and when you should die or become incapacitated? Who will care for them? Who will pay for their food, veterinary expenses, and other costs?
While there is no single answer to any of these questions, crafting an estate plan that addresses the needs of the family pet is absolutely essential. Today we are going to take a look at what families in Kansas and Oklahoma can do if they want to craft an estate plan with the family pet in mind.
The Family Pet and Your Will
A lot of people incorrectly assume that they can take care of their pets by addressing the animal in a last will and testament. While this sounds like a good idea, it isn’t.
The first problem with wills and the family pet is that wills don’t get enacted immediately after your death. There is a necessary delay between the time when you die and when that property is transferred to new owners in accordance with the terms of your will. This can make it impractical when dealing with the needs of an animal that must be cared for on a daily basis.
Also, while you can use a will to transfer property to new owners, you cannot use it to transfer property to animals. Animals cannot inherit money or property because they are not people. You can use your will to transfer ownership of your animal or family pet to someone else, but you cannot use it to leave your pets an inheritance. Even if your state law is changed leaving money to a pet would certainly invite possible challenges in a probate court.
The Family Pet and the Pet Trust
Perhaps the most effective way to protect the family pet when you create an estate plan is to craft a pet trust. A pet trust is, like other trusts, a legal tool that allows you to transfer some of your property or money into the trust’s name. The trust must use the property in a manner you specify. For a pet trusts, that manner will be to provide for the needs of your pet.
When you craft a pet trust you name someone who will act as the pet’s caregiver in the event you become incapacitated or die. You will also name a trustee who will manage the property the trust owns and use it to compensate the caregiver for the expenses he or she incurs while caring for your pet. The trustee might also have the power to name a new caregiver if the original is unable or unwilling to serve.