Estate Planning for Pets - Including Your Pet in Your Estate Planning

Estate Planning is an all encompassing term that refers to the ability to continue to prosper when you're alive and pass on your property with a minimum of fuss and expense after you die. Planning your estate may involve making a will, trust, healthcare directive, power of attorney or other documents.

Including Pets in Your Estate Planning. Pet owners have special considerations. Many traditional law firms do not make arrangements for pets. Due to several legal hurdles, they shy away from animal issues. Pets are considered property under the law. They are seen in much the same light as furniture or collectibles. Without an estate planning professional who is knowledgeable and sympathetic to pet issues, your good intentions may not be realized.

For issues dealing with pets, you will be deciding whether you want to protect them through a will or a trust. There are many stipulations and variations involved in either case. These topics are discussed in more detail on their own pages. You may also want to include a Power of Attorney or a Pet Trust with Power of Attorney verbiage for dealing with veterinarians, funding and other issues. Most aspects of estate planning for pets are governed by state laws. It is extremely important that you contact a legal professional or organization with specific knowledge about YOUR state.

In most instances, you should consult with an attorney to properly plan your estate in its entirety.  To make the most of your time and money, many decisions and much planning can be made on your own. For obvious reasons, the ones addressed here are pet related. With access to the proper tools, you can compile information and prepare some basic pet-related documents yourself that can be added to your family's estate plan by your attorney.  No matter whether you chose a will or a trust, you will need to appoint caretakers for your furry family members. Select at least two people who are willing AND able to care for your pet in the event of an emergency or your death. Have specific conversations with these people and give them the opportunity to say no. Although this is not the answer you want to hear, it is important that you get an honest answer as opposed to an obligated one.

Once you have made the determination and your caretakers are in agreement, you will need to be sure your wishes for the life of your pet are addressed in writing. You should list everything that is important to your pet such as favorite toys, known words, sleeping arrangements, daily schedules and more. You want to relay any information that would keep your pet comfortable without you. Any event that separates your pet from you is stressful enough. Keep as much familiarity around your pet as possible.

Specifications for handling medical conditions or emergencies should be included. This is especially important if you have aging or special needs pets. Keep copies of vaccination and medical records handy. Draw attention to known issues such as allergic reactions and sensitivities. You will also want to discuss your arrangements with your veterinarian. Some will want you to complete a Veterinary Care Contract or Authorization to allow for someone else to consent for your pets care.

Consider your pet’s final disposition. Is euthanasia an option? If so, under what circumstances? Who can make the decision? Is there a pet cemetery where you would like to have your pet buried or do you prefer they be cremated? What kind of memorial service, if any, do you want? While these are not pleasant decisions, you owe it to your best friends to see their lives through all the way to the Rainbow Bridge.

Determine before meeting with your attorney if you will pay your caregivers. You will also most likely be appointing a third party trustee. Will you provide compensation for this task? If these will be paid, where will the funds come from? There are many options available so don’t let this deter your planning. A qualified estate planning professional can help you decide your best course of action.

Provide for the worst case scenario in which neither of your appointed caretakers is able to meet their obligations. Is there a sanctuary or other organization that would provide the care your little ones are accustomed to? Have you visited these locations to ensure they are all their brochures and web sites say they are? What are the fees/terms for your pets to be accepted?

Put everything in writing, including things you don’t want. For example, some owners would not want their pets to be placed in a caged environment or separated from one another. Remember, you are the only voice your pets have so speak loudly and clearly on their behalf.

Estate Planning for Pets can get complicated and overwhelming quickly. Some people can get by without an attorney drafted will, trust or other document if their family is as attached to their pets as they are and are financially able to provide for them. Just keep in mind that other agreements, both verbal and written, may not be enforceable under the law. Although you know your family and your pets better than anyone, it is always best to ere on the side of caution.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice either express or implied. The information contained herein is my own opinion based on years of research. While every effort is made to provide the best, most accurate and most current information, guarantees cannot be made. If you have questions and/or concerns, please seek the counsel of an attorney, financial planner or other estate planning professional.


Featured Sanctuary

Honor Sanctuary, Inc.
7334 Delainey Court Sarasota,
FL 34240
Phone: 941-302-0933

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