Planning for Your Pets
If you die or become disabled, it's important to have a plan in place that quickly and easily provides for your beloved pet's care.
One of the main goals of estate planning is to provide for our loved ones. For many of us, "loved ones" includes our pets. You can ask a friend or relative to look out for your pet. However, unless you set up an estate plan, they are not legally obligated to do so.
Our office will work with you within the applicable State laws, taking into consideration your pet's needs and your financial resources. Together, we can create a plan to ensure that your pet will receive the necessary care to continue to have a quality life.
Some common questions include:
Can I provide for my pet in my estate plan?
You may. Although your pet is your companion and family member, legally, your pet is considered "personal property." You can provide for your pet in your Last Will and Testament or by creating a trust.
Is my will the easiest place to plan for my pet's care?
It may seem like the easiest approach. It may not, though, be the best approach. Before your will takes effect it may need to go through probate. Your pet can't wait.
How does setting up a trust provide for my pet's continued care?
Unlike a will, which may be subject to the probate process, a trust becomes effective immediately based on the terms within – usually death or disability. Your trust specifies the details of your pet's care, and makes funds available. Your trust can also give specific directions about medical attention and burial plans for your pet.
What is a trust?
A trust is a legal entity set up to accomplish a particular purpose. Our office will work with you to determine the specifics of when and under what circumstances the trust takes effect. These details include how the trust will be funded, who is appointed as trustee, successor trustee, beneficiary and caretaker, along with how the trustee or caretaker will care for your pet and manage the funds provided for this responsibility.
A trust can ensure that your pet is fed, cared for and receives medical attention as appropriate. Funds can be designated for pet insurance or to enforce the trust. Real property (real estate) may also be left to provide housing for your pet.
What types of trusts are available to provide care for my pet?
"Pet trusts" is a generic term which applies to a trust that provides for a pet or pets. A traditional legal trust requires that a beneficiary be named and that the beneficiary enforce the terms of the trust. Obviously, in the case of a traditional legal trust, the beneficiary must be a person. Therefore the pet trust must be structured and worded in such a way that the law supports your continued pet care plan.
Some possible solutions include:
- Statutory Pet Trust – This type of trust designates a third party who has the power to enforce the terms of the trust. This person can compel the caretaker or trustee to use the trust funds to care for your pet. Our office will help ensure that the amount of funds designated is "reasonable" in the eyes of the law.
- Honorary Trust – This type of trust is set up for a specific purpose (such as to provide for a pet) without a named beneficiary. Unfortunately, however, it is essentially unenforceable.
- Traditional Legal Trust – As we've already discussed, a traditional legal trust must have a person appointed as beneficiary. Our office can carefully add the legal language necessary to place your pet and sufficient funds into this trust, name your pet's caretaker as beneficiary, and name a trustee to oversee both the caretaker/beneficiary and the trust funds.
How much money do I need to set aside to care for my pet?
We will work with you to help make this determination. Some factors to consider include your finances, your pet's condition, and the estimated amount of care that is likely for your pet's anticipated lifespan. This will vary from pet to pet. An elderly cat, for example, will not likely require the same amount of funds needed to care for a young horse.
At H. Diane Dixon, we understand that your pets are family members. Let us work with you to ensure they are cared for when you are unable to take care of them yourself.
For more information or assistance, please contact us at (423) 710-3689 or use the form on our contact page.