In today’s entry in our ongoing series on basic questions about estate planning, we are going look at how you can protect pets. If you are a pet owner, making sure that your pet will be protected and cared for should you die or become incapacitated is probably very important to you. Your pets are part of your family, and the idea that they could be mistreated when you are no longer around is not something most people want to entertain. Fortunately, there are specific steps you can take to ensure that your pets will be cared for and protected when you are no longer able to do it yourself.
Can I leave my pets inheritances?
This is one of the more common questions we get when we talk to people about protecting their pets through their estate plans. A lot of people ask if they can leave inheritances to their pets through their wills. While this seems like a natural solution to the problem, isn’t exactly a good one.
That’s because pets cannot legally owned property. The law doesn’t recognize pets as people, and, in fact, considers all animals to be property, just like money or personal possessions. Because of this, if you choose to leave an inheritance to your pet through your will, this will only cause difficulties for your estate. Not only will your pet not receive the inheritance, but a court will have to redistribute what you wanted to pass to your animal, and give it to someone else.
If I can’t leave my pets money, how will I care for them?
While you cannot leave your pets a direct inheritance, you can provide for their needs indirectly by establishing a pet trust. If you have been a reader of this blog series you already know what a trust is and how it works. A pet trust is a special kind of trust designed specifically to meet the needs of your animals or pets.
When you create a pet trust you will set aside some property that the trust will own. Normally, you do this through your last will and testament, or by directing your representatives to transfer property into the pet trust should you become incapacitated. You’ll also designate someone who will serve as the trustee of the pet trust. The trustee will have the duty to manage the property the trust owns and use it to pay for the expenses associated with caring for your pet. The caregiver is the person who will actually care for your animals on a day-to-day basis, and who will have his or her expenses reimbursed by the trustee.