A family pet is not only a friend for life, but your cat or dog may become as much a part of your family as any other member. As such, pet owners are understandably concerned about what will happen to their pets after they pass away. It is unfortunate that pets cannot simply be named as beneficiaries, because that would make pet planning so much easier. But, since pets cannot own property, you will need to establish an appropriate pet plan to protect the future of your family friend. Your estate planning attorney can guide you in this process, so you will know what to include in a pet plan.
What are my pet planning options?
There are two main components of every pet plan: the caregiver and financial support. The goal of your pet plan should be to appoint a proper caregiver to care for your pet and make sufficient funds available for that care. There are three basic types of pet plans, ranging from the formal to the informal; from simple agreements to complex trusts.
The general provisions of a good pet plan
A comprehensive pet plan allows you to provide detailed instructions for the care of your pet, including your preferences and your pet’s preferences. The ability to add any instructions you would like, gives you peace of mind for the future. In order to cover all of the necessary provisions, there are four topics that should be included in your pet plan.
Appointing a caregiver to care for your pets
Your pet plan needs to specifically identify the individual you want to provide care for your pet, after your death. It is also wise to name an alternative caregiver, in case your initial choice is unable to fill the role for whatever reason.
Instructions regarding your pet’s needs and routines
Describing your pet’s normal routines and certain preferences, such as type of food, favorite toys, etc., can ensure your pet’s continued happiness. It may also be important to include information regarding your pet’s veterinary care, pre-existing medical issues, dietary restrictions, and the like.
Source of funding for the care of your pet
Establishing a source of funding for your caregiver to use in providing care for your pet is obviously a crucial component of a pet estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can help you to estimate the amount of funds needed to cover your pet’s expenses. This sum of money should be placed in trust, so that the funds can only be used for that purpose. Many clients also include instructions on what should be done with any funds that may be remaining after your pet’s death.
Appointment of a trustee over the funds
The role of the trustee in pet planning is to ensure that your instructions are being followed and that the money you set aside for your pet’s care is being used only for that purpose. The trustee can be the same individual you select to be the caregiver, or it can be a separate individual, if you would be more comfortable with a system of checks and balances.
If you have questions about creating pet plans, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.