Are Your Pets – horses, cats or dogs included in your estate plan? If you have horses, cats, dogs or other pets with long life spans, it might be time to include those pets in your estate planning. Pets in estate plans are often thought of as an estate planning activity of the rich and famous, but many Americans now purchase pet health insurance, pet vacations, pet day care and many other luxuries for their beloved animals.
So, it’s only rational to make provisions for your pets in the event of your death.
Estate planning for pets can range from the very simple to the very complex and from very inexpensive to more costly arrangements.
From simple to more complicated here are a few points to consider:
1) The Informal Memo Option -At the very least, consider putting together a memorandum to your executor and/or family members suggesting the disposition of your pets. In this case, where no financial provision is being made for the pets and their care, it is often advisable to discuss the plans with the friends or relatives involved to ensure that they will, in fact, take on the responsibility. In any case, a memorandum that sets out instructions is still always a good idea.
What something more complicated but more certain?
2) The Outright Gift Option – Consider a bequest to heirs or others who agree to care for one or more pets. Remember, selection of such care takers is important where there is a flat and outright bequest sine there is no way of knowing how long the responsibility will last. For that reason, and given the high cost of equestrian care, many horse and other pet owners prefer a gift to a trust where the trustee can ensure that care givers get what they need to Providence continuing care at the right level anticipated by your trust and in your memorandum of instructions.
3) The Trust Option – First, be aware that not all states permit a trust for pets and animals. Pennsylvania and thirty one other states have, however, adopted such a law. Next, review the issues such as: identifying your pets (the ASPCA site even suggests DNA identification), identifying a caretaker and trustee. A memorandum to the trustee and care takers with specifics about your pets needs, and your desires for care can be vital. Finally, determine how much will be needed and who gets the balance at the death of your pet or pets.
For more on these issues and equestrian issues watch for more articles. For more information on estate planning and trusts for horses, and pets, call at no obligation for a consultation with David M Frees III. David’s practice focuses on trusts, estates, and related pet and equine issues in estate planning.