Estate planning for the family pet is something that many animal lovers are eager to talk about once they first speak to their estate planning attorney. Pet planning is a little more complicated than most people think. Fortunately, there are some tools available that will allow you to craft a plan to protect your animal. Here is what you need to know about estate planning for the family pet.
Estate Planning for the Family Pet: Pet Inheritances
The first issue in pet planning is the question of how to leave your pet enough money to care for the pet’s food, shelter, and medical care requirements. Depending on how many animals you have, how old they are, and their particular needs, you might have to set aside a significant amount of money to protect your pet(s).
Many people believe that the simplest solution to this problem is leaving the pets an inheritance through a will. Unfortunately, animals cannot own money or property, so you cannot simply leave an inheritance to your pet.
Estate Planning for the Family Pet: Caring for the Pet
Since you cannot leave your pet an inheritance, a viable alternative is to leave your pet as an inheritance to a family member or friend through your will. To help cover the costs of the pet’s expenses, you might also leave a small inheritance to the same person. To many people, this solution seems like it would work best.
But again, there is a problem. If you leave an inheritance to someone, you have almost no way to control how that person uses the money. Further, once you give your pet away through your will, the person who inherits the pet will have the ability to do whatever he or she wants with the animal.
In other words, there’s no guarantee that the person who inherits your family pet will care for the animal in the way you want.
Estate Planning for the Family Pet: Pet Trusts
Fortunately, there is a solution to most pet planning challenges: a specialized estate planning tool called the pet trust. Through a properly drafted pet trust you can ensure that the family pet will not only be cared for by the right person or organization, but also that there will be enough money around to care for the pet’s needs.
A pet trust, like other trusts, takes some of your property and transfers it into the trust’s name as the new owner. The trustee is the person or organization you select who will have the right to manage that property, and use it to pay for the pet’s needs. The trustee will also have the ability to select a caregiver, or to replace a caregiver if the current one is not caring for the pet appropriately. The caregiver will be responsible for the day-to-day care of the pet.
Call us at 405-843-6100 to learn more about solving your pet planning challenges.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday