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.
Where does your pet go after your death?
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 whomever 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 as 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.
Can I include provisions for my pet in my will?
Since pets are considered by the law to be property themselves, they cannot own property. This means that you cannot leave money to them in your will. You can, however, include provisions in your will that give your pet to someone you choose to take them in, along with a sum of money to provide the financial support for your pet’s care. The only drawback to this method of pet planning is, the person you choose as a caregiver is not legally bound to actually care for your pet, or to use the funds for your pet’s benefit. If you choose this way, it if crucial that you select someone you trust and discuss your wishes for your pet’s care, ahead of time.
How can I create a legally binding arrangement for my pet?
There are two common ways to create a pet plan that can be legally enforced. The more formal, and more costly, method is to create a pet trust. This allows you to leave your pet and sufficient funds to your chosen caregiver, while creating a trust agreement that sets out your instructions for your pet’s care. The other option is a pet care agreement, which is less formal than a pet trust, but still legally binding. If the terms of either the trust or the care agreement are violated by the caregiver, legal action can be taken against them for those violations.
If you have questions regarding pet estate planning, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.