Pet owners should not overlook the need to include pet planning in their overall estate plan. If you pass away without a pet plan, the consequences are not good. Unfortunately, you cannot simply name a beneficiary for your pet. Instead, more specific plans need to be made to ensure that the caregiver will be legally bound by the terms you set, and the financial support needed to care for your pet will be secure. If you are wondering, what should a pet plan include, let our trust attorneys explain the basics.
Understanding your pet planning options
There are two main parts of every pet plan: provisions for financial support and the identification of a caregiver. You must choose and appoint the appropriate caregiver and provide sufficient funds to provide the necessary care. The three basic methods are including provisions in a will, establishing a pet care agreement, and creating pet trusts. These methods range from informal requests to formal, binding contracts.
Provisions to consider including
If you create a comprehensive pet plan, you will have the opportunity to include very detailed instructions for your pet’s future care. Your instructions can include certain preferences you and your pet may have. The flexibility in adding the details you desire will give you peace of mind that your pet will be well-cared for after you are gone. In order to cover all of the necessary elements of your plan, there are four topics that should be addressed in your pet plan. Let our trust attorneys explain all of the options for you.
Include specific instructions regarding the needs and routines of your pet
If you can describe your pet’s normal routines and preferences, for example, favorite foods and toys, then your pet’s continued happiness can be maintained. The less disruption of your pet’s routine, especially after your death, is better for your pet’s well-being. It is also a good idea to identify your pet’s veterinarian, any pre-existing medical issues or dietary restrictions. Our trust attorneys can help you determine the instructions you should include.
Remember to provide financial support for your pet’s care
Creating a source of funds to be used by your caregiver for your pet is an essential part of every pet estate plan. An experienced estate planning attorney can assist you in determining the approximate amount of funds needed. The money should be placed in trust so they can only be used for that purpose. It is also wise to include directions on where any remaining funds should go, after the death of your pet.
Appoint a trustee to manage the funds
If you decide to use a pet trust, the trustee you select will be responsible for making sure the money set aside for your pet, will only be used for that purpose. You can appoint the same person to be trustee of the funds, as well as the actual caregiver. Or, you can appoint two separate individuals, if you feel a system of checks and balances would be needed. Either way, it is your choice.
What happens if you don’t have a pet plan
Pet owners know the important role their beloved pets play in their lives and the lives of their families. When a pet has been a part of your family for many years, it is important to consider the future of your pet, should you become incapacitated or pass away, and your pet survives you. In order to understand the importance of prior planning, you must understand the consequences of not having a pet plan in place, upon your death.
Who will get your pet if you die without a plan?
If you do not have a pet plan in place, what happens to your pets depends, in part, on whether or not you have a will. The reality is, a pet is considered by the law to simply be property. That makes your pet a part of your estate, along with your other assets. If you have a will, your pet will be given to whoever is named as the “residuary beneficiary.” That is the person who inherits whatever remains of your estate after all specific bequests have been made, pursuant to your will. If you do not have a will, your pet will simply be included with your other personal property and will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession in your state.
What if no one wants to take care of my pet?
Many pet owners simply assume that their relatives will gladly take on the responsibility for their pets after they pass away. However, your relatives may have busy lives or personal restrictions, such as allergies, which may prevent them from being able to take on the role of caregiver. The only option may be surrendering your pet to a shelter. The risk of your pet being euthanized at a shelter is too great, to leave your pet’s future to chance. You must plan ahead.
Join us for a FREE seminar today! If you have questions regarding estate planning, trust contests, or any other trust administration issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us in Los Angeles at (310) 337-7696, and in Orange County at (562) 346-3209.
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