For many people, pets are members of the family. Considering how to provide for your pets after you’re gone can help to ensure they are well taken care of and make a challenging time easier for your loved ones. It is important to keep in mind that under the law, pets are considered property, so you cannot leave anything directly to them. Wills and trusts lawyers can help you understand the different options that can help protect your pet in your estate plan.
Designate a Caretaker and Funds in Your Will
One of the easiest ways to name a caretaker and allocate money to take care of your pet is to include it in your will. Choose wisely when designating a primary and secondary caretaker for your pet. It is important to select someone you trust to use the funds for your pet’s care, as the manner in which they use the money is not typically monitored or enforced. Before naming a caretaker, make sure they are willing to take on the responsibility so they are not blindsided in the event of your death.
Name an Agent in a Power of Attorney
You can also include language in your general power of attorney that authorizes your agent to care for your pet, place your pet with a specified caregiver, and/or spend money to provide for your pet’s care. Putting this language in a power of attorney can help protect your pet in the event of your incapacitation.
Set up a Pet Trust
A reliable way to provide for a pet is to set up a pet trust. In this type of trust, you can name a trustee that has a legal obligation to look out for the welfare of your pet, according to your instructions. A pet trust provides accountability for the funds you leave to the caretaker and enables you to outline a caretaking plan that takes effect if you become incapacitated. The names of the trustee and caretaker, detailed instructions, and the amount of money necessary to care for the pet should be included in the trust. Setting up and administering a pet trust is more costly than simply naming someone in a power of attorney or will. If you have confidence in the person you have named as a caretaker, a trust is probably unnecessary.
Being Prepared Can Protect Your Pet
A wills and estate attorney can help you determine which option may work best for your specific circumstances. Regardless of which option you choose, keeping a card in your wallet that has information about your pet and how to contact their caretaker can help to ensure they are taken care of in case of an emergency. It is also important to make sure your pet’s caretaker knows how to access your home to retrieve your pet. If you do not have anyone who can care for your pet, the SPCA and other rescue organizations offer legacy programs that find trustworthy caretakers for pets whose owners have died.
Our estate planning law firm helps clients create plans to protect all members of the family, including beloved pets.