Estate Plans and Pets
Frequently, we find that a client’s estate plan does not address the placement of pets or provide for their financial support after their owner’s incompetence or death. Pets can be considered valued family members and should be included in your written plans. One avenue is to include provisions for the benefit of pets in your Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA), Will, and/or Revocable Living Trust. Wills and Trusts can include specific instructions for the care of a pet and a dollar amount to be given for the person designated to care for the pet. Pets can also be included in your will as an outright gift, either with or without pet care resources.
Consider different forms for different directives. A will, for example, is only effective at death, so it does not protect your pet in the event of your disability or a natural disaster. An essential plan should include both the short- and long-term care of the pet in the event of an emergency, incapacity or hospitalization, or the time between your death and the administration of your estate.
It is essential to have provisions in your DPOA that allow the designated person to direct funds for the care of your pet. If you do not add these provisions, your pets may be surrendered to a shelter and could be euthanized.
If you feel a one-time distribution and allocation of resources for your pet’s care is not sufficient, you may also want to consider leaving detailed instructions and more than enough resources for the pet’s lifetime care. Additionally, you may want to ensure there are alternate caregivers, veterinarian contact information, medication or special diet needs, or a separate function of pet care and management of the resources, by incorporating a check and balance system to guarantee a happy, healthy life for your pet.
Pet Trust Law
All 50 States have a Pet Trust Law. Here is a link to a resource identifying each State’s law https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-planning/pet-trust-laws. The Humane Society of the United States provides a free information guide on the essentials of a good pet plan. https://legacy.humanesociety.org/ documents/h/humane-society-of-the-united-states/pets_in_wills_factsheet.pdf.
Above all, don’t leave your pets future to chance or assume that a family member will be the best choice to take on the care of your beloved pet. Animals grieve and will be distressed by your absence and they deserve your thoughtful planning for them.