If your pets are considered members of the family, you may set up some protections for them.
It might be wise to consider the future of your pets, when it comes to estate planning because, as it turns out, up to a half million pets a year end up in shelters after their owners die, according to the Humane Society. As a society we may spend billions on our pets during our lifetime, but they may end up in shelters, according to The National Law Review in “Estate Planning For Your Pets.”
The answer is to include your pet’s care in estate planning, just as you do for family members. The first major consideration is to name who you would want to be responsible for your pet, if you should become incapacitated. Make sure that person is willing to take on the role of caretaker and that they have sufficient room in their homes (and their hearts) for your pets.
If they agree, then start by preparing a sheet with this basic information:
- What does your pet eat? Do you give him/her treats, and if so, what kind?
- Medical records for your pet: vaccinations, surgery, special medications.
- The name of the veterinarian and any specialists.
- What does your pet do when she/he is nervous or anxious? What calms them down?
- What other information would you want someone to know, in your absence?
Speak with your estate planning attorney to see if they have a “Pet Care Authorization” form. This is a form that is similar to something you would use for a child staying with a relative who might need care. The form would designate the agent to act on your behalf for a variety of situations, including medical care.
For planning for your pets after you die, you can designate a caretaker. This may be the same person who agreed to care for your pet, if you became incapacitated. You can do this in a last will and testament or a revocable living trust. You’ll also need to provide funding for the care of your pet.
You can use a trust as an alternative to an outright distribution of funds to the caretaker. The pet trust would be overseen by a named trustee, who would be responsible to ensure that funds are used to benefit your pet(s). Make sure to allot a reasonable amount of money to cover the cost of veterinary care, grooming, feeding, training and any additional expenses.
You don’t have to be a wealthy person to have this arrangement in place. It is simply a practical matter to ensure that your furry family members are taken care of, after you pass away. Another factor to consider: what is the average age expectancy of your pet? A parrot could easily live 60 to 80 years, and a horse could live for four decades. The care and feeding of a horse will be considerably higher, than for a golden retriever or house cat.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and may include protection for your pets.
Reference: The National Law Review (Feb. 18, 2019) “Estate Planning For Your Pets”