The love and companionship of a family pet are truly a blessing. So, planning for your pet’s future is just as important to your overall estate plan as the other provisions you include. While pet trusts are very common, there are alternatives to pet trusts that may be better suited to your needs.
Types of pet estate planning
There are three basic methods of creating a pet estate plan: trusts, will provisions and pet care agreements. Pet trusts, like general trusts, create a relationship between the chosen trustee and the pet owner, for the management and care of a pet. A trust can ensure that the wishes of the pet owner are carried out after the pet owner is no longer capable of doing so. However, a pet trust can be very complicated and expensive to establish. There are alternatives to pet trusts.
Adding pet provisions to your will
A simple substitute to a pet trust, is including provisions in your will that address your pet’s future care. These particular provisions can identify the individual you have selected to be your pet’s caregiver, as well as how financial support will be provided for the care of your pet. You can specify your preferences regarding your pet, as well as your pet’s preferences, to ensure your pet remains healthy and happy in the future.
Disadvantages of using a will
The big disadvantage to using your will for pet estate planning is that the terms are not considered legally binding on your chosen caregiver. After the pet is handed over to the caregiver, he or she is not legally obligated to keep the pet. The same is true with the funds you set aside for the pet’s care. There is no guarantee that the caregiver will spend the money for your pet’s benefit. On the other hand, a pet trust is legally binding.
Pet protection agreements
Like a pet trust, a pet protection agreement is also legally binding because it is essentially a contract. However, it is less formal and less expensive than a pet trust. With a pet protection agreement, you can select a person you trust to be your pet’s caregiver, provide specific instructions regarding the type of care you expect, and establish financial support for your pet’s future care.
Because a pet care agreement is a contract between you and the caregiver, it is legally enforceable. Another benefit of a pet care agreement, is that it can be drafted so that it becomes effective upon your death, or even if you become incapacitated.
Consider a pet sanctuary
Another option is to make provisions for your pet to be cared for by a pet sanctuary. These animal shelters are created for the purpose of providing lifetime care for pets whose owners have died. Originals will also need to be made to provide funds for your pet’s care at a sanctuary.
This may be a better alternative if you do not have anyone in mind who is willing to take on the responsibility of your pet’s lifetime care. Provisions for sending your pet to a pet sanctuary can simply be included in your will. Make sure the gift of your pet to the sanctuary is conditioned on the sanctuary keeping your pet for life.
If you have questions regarding pet trusts, or any other pet estate planning issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.