Especially in our later years, having a companion pet at home is a comforting thing. Pets are such a great addition to families, but there can be complications when the pet’s caregiver passes away. Although you cannot leave money directly to your pet in the event that you pass away and the pet outlives you, you can stipulate a caregiver for your pet(s) in your Will, and you can set up a pet trust that will financially provide for the expenses around caring for your pet.
First, decide who will care for your pet(s) and indicate that in your Will so that your wishes are made both clear and legal. It’s also a good idea to name a backup carer, in case anything happens to the originally named party or they are unable to care for your pet. This person named in your Will becomes the owner of your pet when you pass away, but they don’t have any legal obligation to use any money left to them to care for the pet. You can leave instructions for care here as well, but in order to ensure the execution of the pet’s care is to your preferences, consider creating a pet trust.
Like a trust designed for humans, pet trusts are financial estate planning tools that allow for the transfer of assets. However, as mentioned above, since you cannot leave money directly to the pet, instead you can create a trust that dictates the money in that account be used solely for the care of the pet. You can even dictate how you want that money spent — from things like types of food and veterinary care to even more specific items like grooming. Creating a pet trust is also a gift to your surviving family members, who can enjoy the company of your much-loved pet while not being financially burdened with their care.
Unlike a Will, you can use a pet trust to stipulate what should happen to your pet if you become incapacitated or are unable to care for the pet, but are still living. You can include stipulations like caregivers, as well as whether you want the pet to visit you, if possible, while you’re incapacitated.
With a trust attorney, like one from McCarthy Law, LLC, you can set up a pet trust, decide the terms, and fund the trust. When deciding how much to fund, consider the expected costs of caring for your pet as well as their life expectancy, as well as any possible future complications when it comes to care – especially for older pets. In addition, it is wise to stipulate what should happen to any surplus money left in the trust if the pet passes away before the entirety of the funded money is used.
Pets are members of our families, and it’s important to consider their health and well-being when estate planning. Setting up a trust for a pet may have estate tax implications, so talk to your attorney to evaluate all of your options.