Pet planning is a crucial step in estate planning for pet owners who want to know the future of their pet is secure. The possible consequences, if you die without a pet plan, are not pleasant to consider. 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, here are some of the basics.
First, what are the 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 (1) provisions in a will, (2) pet care agreement, and (3) pet trusts. These methods range from informal requests to formal, binding contracts.
What provisions need to be included?
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.
Selecting and appointing a caregiver
It is best to identify, specifically, the person you want to be your pet’s caregiver, upon your incapacity or death. Likewise, it is a good idea to name an alternate or successor caregiver, in the event your original choice is unable to take on the responsibility for any reason.
Instructions for your pet’s specific needs and routines
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.
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.
Appointment of a trustee for 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 over 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.
If you have questions regarding the substance of a pet plan, or any other pet planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.