How Do I Estate Plan with a Pet in Mind?

Estate Planning Lawyer

Millions of Americans own pets. These animals are often valued as members of the families they belong to. Yet, according to the American Pet Products Association, fewer than 10 percent of pet owners who have wills in place have made provisions for those pets within their wills. And that is only the percentage of pet owners who have drafted wills in the first place! Millions of American adults have no estate plans in place at all. If you are a pet owner and you have yet to plan how your pet will be cared for in the event that you become incapacitated or you pass away, it is time to do so. Thinking about a time when you may not be able to be there for your pet is undeniably challenging. However, working with an experienced estate planning attorney will allow you to protect your pet into the future while making the process of setting up those protections as low-stress as possible.

Estate Planning and Pets – The Basics

There are two major challenges a pet owner must overcome when seeking to provide for a pet within the context of an estate plan. First, the pet owner must consider the pet’s needs across the board. Second, the pet owner must discuss the best ways to provide for that pet’s needs within an estate plan. It is generally not the best option to simply outline preferences in a will. An attorney will be able to discuss the idea of setting up a trust to provide for your pet’s needs and will be able to discuss naming a suitable guardian for your pet in the event of your incapacitation or death.

When considering your pet’s needs, it is important to think about who may be willing, able and even happy to take over guardianship of your pet when you can no longer take care of your animal friend. Having a loving owner is the most important part of ensuring that your pet is well cared for into the future. You should also think about how your pet’s medical needs will be provided for/addressed, how food, shelter, recreation, etc. will be provided for. In most states, you cannot leave money directly to your pet in your will. Instead, you will likely need to set up a trust and insist that whomever assumes ownership of your pet in the event of your incapacitation or death provides for your pet with the funds you have allocated.

Legal Guidance Is Available

If you have questions about how to provide for your pet within the context of your estate plan, please do not hesitate to connect with an experienced estate planning attorney today. It is generally not a good idea to spell out your wishes for your pet within the text of your will alone and working with an estate planning attorney will help to ensure that all your bases are covered. Your pet is part of your family and should be looked after properly in the event that something happens to you. Please do not wait to contact an attorney as none of us truly knows when the contents of our estate plans will become an urgent business. Our firm has extensive experience addressing pet-related needs within the context of estate plans and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time and to provide you with necessary legal guidance and support. We look forward to speaking with you.

If you’re concerned that the person you’ve appointed will run through the money and not put it toward your pet’s care, you can set up a Trust wherein the money is doled out on an as-needed basis by a Trustee. It’s like when you name different people as guardian of a person and guardian of an estate. It basically means you trust someone to care for a living creature, but you’d rather err on the side of caution when it comes to money.

Source: Sacramento Estate Planning Lawyer, Yee Law Group

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