As we are getting into August, also known around our office as Make A Will Month, everyone is thinking about starting their wills or even updating them. When it comes to your estate planning documents, you probably are not thinking about your fur children, but it is something that should not be overlooked. In the confusion of a sudden loss of a loved one, a pet can be forgotten and not exactly sure what should be done.
When it is has been made clear in writing it makes it easier for everyone to know exactly how they should proceed. There’s a lot more to planning than memorial arrangements, don’t forget about doing your estate planning for pets and knowing your options.
Writing them in your will
Pets are not able to own property so you can not leave them property. This means you can not set aside money for them in your will. However, you can leave them and money you have set aside for them to a loved one who is willing to take care of them.
But, bear in mind you can’t leave money or property to them
A dog, for all its admirable and unique qualities, is not a human being and is not treated in the law as such. —Arrington v. Arrington, 613 S.W.2d 565. The court said so, your pet cannot go to the bank and cash a check but, that doesn’t mean you can’t look after him when you pass.
Setting up a trust
A few years ago I came across an article in the New York Times where a lady wanted her cat to be adopted to a great home and be taken care of. She left a letter for the shelter to give to her new owner that specific things about the cat, such as what she likes to eat, what her favorite toy was and her favorite spot to be petted as well as providing a trust fund to make sure that her cat was given the best life possible.
A pet trust helps you legally choose a caretaker for your pet if you pass. Pets can’t actually be the beneficiaries or trusts themselves; but you can certainly designate caregivers, monthly allowances for pet care, and what to do with the trust when your pet passes. Taking care of a pet is rewarding, but it can also be expensive.
A trust can eliminate a lot of the costs of pet care for the person you’re designating as the caretaker. You want to make sure they have the same life that they had with you. The trust allows the caregiver to carry out your wishes, designate funds to so that the caregiver has appropriate support, and allows you to specify where the remaining funds should go after your pet passes away. Everything is up to you, but you have to get it in writing.
Which is better a will or a trust?
This is a hard question to answer because it depends on what you want to do and how you want to do it. It’s never a bad idea to set up a meeting with an attorney to go over your options and set up a plan that will be best for you. With Rocket Lawyer you can ask an attorney through the site.
As hard as it is to think of leaving your pets behind, there is no greater sense of security for pet owners than knowing that your animals are being provided for. By getting your estate planning documents completed, you will have the peace of mind that not only are your loved ones taken care of but your fur babies are as well.