James M. Weaver, PA

Estate Planning for Your Pets

Pets are members of your family. You adopted them, have cared for them, and want to make sure they are loved. Do you know who will take care of your pet if you pass unexpectedly? If not, you may need to consider estate planning for your pets.

Doing Nothing

If you make no provision in your estate planning for your pet there is no way to guess who will take care of your pet and how your pet will be taken care of at the time of your passing. Your pet is considered personal property, passing to someone like a book or piece of jewelry. Without a provision your pet may be left to your heir(s), relative, friend or be given away or taken to a shelter. This is not the first choice as there is no control or explicit directions to follow.

Pet Guardian

If you suddenly were admitted to the hospital who would take care of your pet? You need a written document naming the guardian for your pet and clear instructions in the case of an emergency. It is also important to have the pet’s adoption papers, immunization records, and other instructions available for the guardian to properly care for your pet.

Pet Trust: Provisions for your pet in your Will or Trust

A pet trust may be inserted into your Last Will and Testament or your Revocable Trust Agreement. You may name alternate caregivers who will take ownership of your pet upon your death. You may also set aside a specific amount of money to be used for the care and maintenance of your pet. Lastly, you may name a trustee to distribute the funds to the caregiver or to third-party vendors, such as the groomer or veterinarian.

Pet Caregiver after your Death

You need to name one or more people who are willing to take ownership of your pet upon your passing. We always suggest naming alternate caregivers in the event the first-named person is deceased or unwilling. It is wise to speak to your named caregivers ahead of time and verify their willingness to own your animal. You also have the option to give the caregiver a stipend to compensate them for care of your animal.

Designated Funds for Care

You may designate a certain amount of money to be used for food, grooming, care, and maintenance of your pet. This money can be designated in your trust, or set up in a separate bank account for the benefit of your caregiver. Beware of the second option as this money will legally become the caregiver’s asset and may not be used for the intended purpose.

Informal Arrangement

Some individuals have an oral agreement with a friend or relative to take money and the pet after death and follow their instructions. The issue with this is that your friend or relative make just take the money and not follow through with your instructions.

Contingencies upon the death of your pet

You may also state what should happen when your pet passes away. You may want them buried with you or buried somewhere else. You may want the remaining funds to be given to the caretaker or donated to a charity of your choice.