Sometimes, our pets can seem so much like our children that it’s hard to remember they’re not actually people. And when it comes to estate planning, it’s easy to make the mistake of treating a pet like a person by including Fido or Fluffy in your Will, and leaving property directly to him or her.
The problem with this is that, in the eyes of the law, pets are property themselves, so you can’t leave property to them.
There are two ways to provide for your pet after you’re gone.
1. Leave your pet to a friend or family member, and leave that person a sum of money or property along with a request that the money be used to care for your pet. This option is best used when you are confident that your chosen caregiver will, in fact, keep and take care of your pet. Unscrupulous caregivers have been known to abandon pets and keep the money for other uses and, with this option, there’s no way to force a caregiver to follow your wishes.
2. Establish a trust for the care of your pet after you pass away. With this choice, you name a caregiver who will be responsible for the hands-on care of your pet, you name a trustee who will be in charge of your pet’s money. You then fund the trust with sufficient money or property to meet your pet’s needs during its lifetime. You also leave written instructions for how your pet is to be taken care of. This way, the obligations of the trustee and the caregiver can be legally enforced.
Your estate planning attorney can help you determine the best way to include your pet in your estate plan.