For lots of
people, their pets are thought of as members of the family. Indeed, pets are
some people’s closest companions. If you’re one of those people and you want to
make sure your furry friend is provided for in your estate plan, here’s how to
make that happen.
Be aware, unlike your human family members, pets are considered your personal property under the law, so you can’t just name them as a beneficiary in your will or trust. If you do name your pet as a beneficiary in your plan, whatever money you tried to leave to it would go to your residuary beneficiary (the individual who gets everything not specifically left to your other named beneficiaries), who would have no obligation to care for your pet.
Wills aren’t a good option
Since you can’t name your pet as a beneficiary, your first thought might be to leave your pet (and money for its care) in your will to someone you trust to be your pet’s new caregiver. While it’s possible to leave your pet in this manner, it definitely isn’t the best option.
That’s because the person you name as beneficiary (the new caregiver) in your will would have no legal obligation to use the funds properly, even if you leave them detailed instructions for your pet’s care. In fact, your pet’s new owner could legally keep all the money for themselves and drop off your beloved friend at the local shelter.
Even if you completely trust someone to take care of your pet if you leave him or her money in your will, it’s simply impossible to predict what circumstances might arise in the future that could make that arrangement impossible.
For example, when you die, the new caregiver might be living in an apartment or condo that doesn’t allow pets, or the individual could be suffering from an unforeseen illness that leaves them no longer able to care for the animal. Or, when faced with the reality of the situation, the person could simply change his or her mind about wanting to look after your pet for the rest of its life.
Additionally, a will is required to go through the court process known as probate, which can last for years, leaving your pet in limbo until probate is finalized. Not to mention, a will only goes into effect upon your death, so if you’re incapacitated by accident or illness, it would do nothing to protect your companion.
Pet trusts offer the ideal option
In order to be completely confident that your pet is properly taken care of and the money you leave for its care is used exactly as intended, consider a pet trust.
By creating a pet trust, you can
lay out detailed, legally binding rules for how your pet’s chosen caregiver can
use the funds in the trust. And unlike a will, a pet trust does not go through
probate, so it goes into effect immediately and works in cases of both your
incapacity and death.
What’s more, a pet trust allows you to name a trustee, who is legally bound to manage the trust’s funds and ensure your wishes for the animal’s care are carried out in the manner the trust spells out.
With a properly drafted and funded pet trust, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your beloved pet will receive the kind of love and care it deserves when you’re no longer around to offer it.
Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,