Do you have a pet you want to ensure has a good home and are well taken care of following your passing? Be aware that such provision allowances vary from state to state. While many pet parents view their pets as they would their own children, provisions for pets fall into a completely different category. Pet owners value the idea to provide care and comfort similar to children, but laws dictate that they be treated as possessions in some states.
Based on the residence of the pet owner, there are three options they can exercise regarding their pet’s care following their passing:
- Establish a Pet Trust: out of all the states, forty of them offer this statute. Pet trusts are established primarily for when the owner of the pet passes away, but they can also be effective should the pet owner not be able to take care of their pet anymore. A trustee must be named, and there must be a fund established to use toward the care of the pet. The trustee will act as sole caregiver of the pet, otherwise referred to as the trust property.
- Create a will: in the remaining states that have not created a statute for pet trusts, pet owners must leave their pet to a caregiver, the pet’s belongings, as well as the funds necessary to care for their pet, to a beneficiary named in their will. The will must state that the beneficiary is responsible for taking care of the pet for the remainder of the pet’s life. Specifications regarding the care-taking fund must also be made with regards to the caregiver giving up the pet prior to its death; otherwise they will still have access to that fund. In order to prevent that from happening, establish a beneficiary you can trust well in advance.
- Find an Organization: when the other two options are not exercisable, finding an organization to help you place your pet following your passing is the best way to go. Funds for this process must be included in your will with the organization being specified. Confer with your estate planning attorney regarding the best way to handle this option to ensure your pet goes to a good home.
Pet planning is a very important ingredient in the estate planning process, and should be handled with care. Pet parents sometimes make the mistake of leaving their pets out of their plans not realizing the ramifications involved.
The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.