Peace of Mind
If something happened to you, what would happen to your pets?
It is important to think about who would care for your pets in the event of your inability, illness, or even death, and to implement a plan to prevent your pets from ending up in a shelter where their future remains uncertain.
You cannot leave money or other kinds of property to your pet. The law says animals are property, and one piece of property cannot own another piece of property. However, you can plan to make sure that your pet has a good life after you die. Use your estate plan to make sure that your pet goes to a caring person or organization, and that the new caretaker has the resources to take good care of him or her.
Options for Estate Planning for Pets
When planning for your pet's life after your death, you have a range of options – from making a simple, non-legal arrangement, to making a complex trust, to leaving your pet with an organization dedicated to taking care of pets after an owner's death.
To make any of these arrangements, you need to find a person or organization that you trust to care for your pet. And that person or organization needs to be willing to do it. So no matter which option you choose, have a candid conversation with your pet's potential caretaker about how to care for your pet and how expenses will be met.
Including language in your will:
If you know your caregiver well and trust them to follow your wishes, a provision in your will may work well enough for you. Just know that leaving an animal to a beneficiary isn’t a guarantee that they will follow your guidance or use the funds given to them to cover your pet’s costs.
Drafting a Pet Trust:
Increasingly, pet owners are opting to create pet trusts. A pet trust is an effective tool to plan for the care of your animals. As with other types of trusts, a pet trust is like a company that exists only to pay for the needs of your pet as you determine. All 50 states in the U.S. have adopted some form of pet trust.
Creating informal agreements:
It is still common for owners to make an informal agreement with a trusted friend or family member to care for their pet when they no longer can. That said, informal agreements offer the least amount of protection. If you gave your pet to someone when you pass away, you have no control over how that person will care for or provide for your pet.
Other options: Powers of Attorney and Letters of Instruction
Through your power of attorney, you can give your agent the ability to care for your pets and use your money to pay for this care. As with an informal agreement, there’s no way to guarantee that the person who inherits your pet provides the kind of care you want it to receive.
Letters of instruction are designed to allow you to leave behind instructions, information, or express wishes that have little effect on your property or assets. However, since letters of instruction are not enforceable, and they can’t be used to set aside assets for pet care, they’re best used in conjunction with other estate planning tools.