Pet Trust

Who will care for your pet when gone?

For many people, their pets are as closely held to their hearts like their children. For others, their pets are their children. However, despite stories of pets receiving millions of dollars after an owner’s death, that rumor is a fallacy. The law identifies pets as property, and property cannot legally own property. Despite this, you do have the ability to provide for your pet upon your passing by ensuring your pet:

  • It is placed with a person or organization that cares for your pet, and
  • Your pet’s new caregiver has the resources available to provide your pet with a quality life.

So, what happens when you suddenly or not so suddenly pass away? Who will care for your pet when they need comfort most? Your pets will need immediate care when you are gone. And that means you will need short- and long-term solutions when estate planning for your pet.

Considerations for your pet before estate planning

Like anything in life, planning is the key to success. Estate planning is the process of anticipating your death and arranging while you are alive how your assets will be distributed whether you pass away or become incapacitated. This includes property, money, other investments, and yes, your pets.

Having a clear idea of how you would like to care for your pets is essential, and there are three things to consider:

  1. Short-term (emergency) care,
  2. Long-term (permanent) care,
  3. And backup solutions.

Short-term (emergency) Care

Whether you become incapacitated or pass away, short-term care is the immediate care for your pet until your long-term care plans can be met. Short-term goals take effect immediately. Therefore, a trusted friend or family member should have accommodations to care for your pet. Accommodations such as access and use of your home. The short-term caregiver should be familiar with your pet and your pet friendly with the caregiver. Also, the caregiver must live close so they can quickly provide for your pet.

Typical considerations for short-term care of your pet include:

  • Primary and secondary short-term caregivers.
  • Information and instructions on special care for your pet(s) include food, feeding times, medications, medical records, allergies, veterinary contact information, and your pet’s routine.
  • Contact information for the long-term caregiver.
  • Money for short-term expenses such as food and medicine. Consider one to two months of costs.

Long-term care

Long-term care of your pet may require more considerations. Much like short-term care, you should plan who will be the caregiver for your pet. This may include friends, family, or even an organization you trust. Long-term pet care is often referred to as permanent care. So, it would help if you chose someone willing to have your pet as a forever home.

Considerations for a long-term caregiver for your pet are similar to short-term. The main difference between the two is that your long-term caregiver anticipates taking on your full responsibility through the duration of your pet’s life.

Typical considerations for long-term care of your pet include:

  • Information and instructions on special care for your pet(s) include food, feeding times, medications, medical records, allergies, veterinary contact information, and your pet’s routine.
  • Money for expenses defined for a lengthier period than short-term.
  • Ideally, a trust to ensure your pet will be taken care of and the money you provide will be distributed solely for your pet.

Have a backup solution.

When estate planning for your pet, it is also essential to have a backup plan. Often estate planning for pets is decided years before a person becomes incapacitated or passes away. Therefore, it is crucial to plan for changes in your caregivers’ circumstances. When these changes impact the ability to care for your pet in an emergency, your estate plan should be modified.

Formal Estate Planning for your Pets

You cannot leave money or property to your pet in a will. However, you can leave money to care for your pet and designate a trusted permanent caregiver. It is essential to understand the legal difference concerning your pets in a will vs. a pet trust. Both are legal documents concerning the care of your pet; however, a trust is more complex.

Creating a will for your pets

Including pets in your will is vital to ensure the long-term care of your pet. However, the big difference between a will and a trust is that the money left in a will for your pet’s caregiver is just that. The caregiver can use the money for anything, not just your pet. Ideally, you have chosen a caregiver who treats your pet as well as you did. After all, the will does transfer ownership of your pet to the caregiver.

Creating trust for your pets

A pet trust is more complicated. Like a will, your pet trust will transfer ownership of your pet to the new caregiver. However, when you leave money in a trust to be used for your pet, the caregiver is legally responsible for using that money for your pet. If the caregiver follows instructions for your pet’s care, they may be sued and held legally liable.

As such, pet trusts should include detailed information about how you wish your pet to be cared for. A pet trust should consist of:

  • Name of the primary and secondary caregiver if the primary caregiver is unavailable.
  • The amount of money being left for the care of your pet.
  • How the pet should be cared for.
  • Identify a person to enforce the terms of the trust in court if need be.
  • Describe what should happen to the money if your pet dies before the money runs out.

In Conclusion

Taking care of your pet after your death is an integral part of estate planning. By creating a thought-out and documented plan, you can ensure your pet will be taken care of in the short-term and long-term following an unexpected tragedy.

Blade and Blade PA estate planning will ensure care for your pets when you are gone.