According to a 2009 National Pet Owner Survey, over 62% of American households contain pets. Many of these households consider their pets to be bona fide family members. Adoring pet owners have been known to purchase Christmas presents for their furry companions and celebrate their pet’s birthdays. Traditional estate planning allows individuals to determine how personal assets will be distributed and who will care for surviving minor children upon death or incapacity. But who will care for surviving pets if their owners become unable to?
Responsible owners would never leave on a vacation without making detailed arrangements for their pet’s care; caring for them when you are gone should be no different. Make sure you tell your attorney that you want to make provisions for your pet in your estate plan. Even though pets cannot inherit property or money, there are planning techniques that will allow you to provide for your pet.
o Include pets in durable powers of attorney to allow payments for pet care if you are unable to care for your pet.
o If using a will as your primary after death estate planning tool, designate a caregiver and at least one alternate caregiver. Include detailed instructions and sufficient funds to provide for your pet’s care. Additionally, make sure your will is updated regularly.
o Currently 39 states, including California, have enacted “pet trust” laws. These statutes enable a person to create a trust for the care of a designated pet for the life of the animal.
o Consider a pet care organization that offers pet care or placement programs, as an alternative to giving your pet to an individual caregiver. These organizations generally offer services for a per-animal fee or in exchange for a gift stated in a will. It is important to thoroughly research any facility before entrusting your pet to their care.
Many pets will outlive their owners, and it is important to ensure their care after you are gone. If you need assistance, our office is happy to help.