Pets are cherished members of the family; they sometimes get treated better than actual humans. We have heard about a few instances where family members were cut out of their inheritance in favour of the family pet. Leona Helmsley for instance, did this with her dog, Trouble.
Pets provide unconditional love, companionship, and joy. This is where estate planning for pet owners comes in; you want to ensure that your furry, feathered, or scaly friends can continue to receive the care and love they deserve, even in the instance that you aren’t able to personally provide care.
Estate planning for pet owners is a critical step in guaranteeing the well-being of your beloved pets.
Estate planning for pet owners goes beyond money for their care; estate planning for pets acknowledges the vital role your pet(s) play in your life.
Here are some reasons why estate planning for pet(s) is essential:
1. Unconditional Love:
Pet(s) offer unwavering emotional support. They often love you unconditionally and some people prefer their pet(s) over the human members of their families. We do tend to pamper our pet(s) and some of them are treated better than our family members. We sometimes treat our pet(s) as if they are our children.
2. Legal Protection:
Estate planning allows for us to provide legal safeguards for our pet(s). After all, they are still considered to be our property under the law. Estate planning allows for pet owners to outline how they want their pet(s) to be properly taken care of through legally binding documents.
3. Preventing Uncertainty:
Planning for your pet(s)’ future can lead to peace of mind if you clearly define the roles members of your family are supposed to take on: one person, for instance, is the caregiver for your pet(s), while having a defined amount of funds for your pet(s), clarifying your wishes, etc. All of this allows for a seamless transition; someone else can easily take care of your pet(s) if something happens to you.
Pet(s) thrive on routine; a seamless transition ensures that your pet(s) experience as little disruption in their daily lives as possible.
The first step of estate planning for pet(s) is to designate one or more pet caregivers. These individuals will be trusted to take care of your pet(s), and provide them with food, shelter, love, etc. By appointing someone in writing, this ensures that your pet(s) have a seamless transition from one owner to another. These caregivers are typically family members, friends, or other individuals.
This one is fairly obvious: discuss how you want your pet(s) to be taken care of in the event that you can’t take up the responsibility. This goes beyond simply providing food and shelter. This also means that the caregiver is going to be responsible for making sure that the animal in question has proper exercise, trips to the vet, trips to the dog park, etc. Taking care of a pet is a big responsibility; it’s almost as big as taking care of a children. Discussing your intentions means being very clear and specific about your pet(s) routines, dietary preferences, vet trips, etc.
You can outline detailing proper instructions for care by writing out detailed instructions. Instructions include information about feeding schedules, exercise, medical needs, grooming preferences and anything else the caregiver should know about. The more detailed the better.
Calculate the rough amount of money required to cover your pets’ ongoing expenses. This includes food, vet care, grooming, toys, etc. You may not be able to calculate everything down to the very last detail, but you want enough money to care for your pet(s), so you’ll want to calculate a rough amount that can cover everything.
Document everything! This includes your outline for care for your pet(s), AND veterinary records. Everything you want your caregiver to know goes into writing. Store these documents in a secure and easily accessible location.
Just like a Last Will and Testament, you have to review and update all of your estate plans accordingly. If the needs of your pet(s) change, review and update your estate plan as necessary. Keep your plan current to reflect your pets’ evolving needs.
Make sure that there is enough money/funds for the care of your pet(s). This is an obvious, but critical aspect of estate planning for your pet(s). Here are some funding options to consider:
1. A Lump Sum of money:
You can fund your pet trust with a lump sum of money from your estate. This will provide the funds you require to take care of your pet(s). Calculate the expected costs of caring for your pet(s) over their lifetime and disperse that amount or a portion of it in a trust. Many people choose to have at least a portion of the funds readily available in a bank account.
2. Brokerage Account:
A brokerage account is an investment account. This enables you to buy and sell multiple of investments. These investments include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs. You can use the funds whenever and however you want. Instead of a lump sum, you can arrange for the pet funds to come from the brokerage account.
3. Life Insurance
You may consider designating your pet trust as a beneficiary of a specific life insurance policy. The amount from the policy can provide a substantial source of funding for the care of your pet(s).
4. Family and Friends:
Family and friends may want to help chip in to a Pet Care fund. If they love Fido as much as you do, they may want to help out by throwing in some dollar bills into the Pet Care Fund during holidays or birthdays. Yes, people do celebrate pet birthdays, so family or friends may want to donate money to your Pet Care Fund.
1. Can I leave a bequest to my pet in my will?
Wills are typically known for providing for your (human) family members. Wills may not allow for the same level of protection for your pet(s), as they do for the rest of your loved ones. You may want to create a Pet Will instead. This legal document allows you to create a comprehensive and detailed outline. These documents usually come with instruction letters for pet care.
2. What happens to any remaining funds in the pet trust after my pets pass away?
A Pet Will allows for these types of provisions; they allow you to specify how any remaining funds should be dispersed. You can decide to leave any remaining funds to a worthy animal charity or organization, or specified individuals in various percentages.
3. Can I set up a Pet Will for multiple pets?
Yes, you can create a Pet Will covering the care of multiple pet(s), you can specify both their individual needs and the details of their caregivers. You can create more than one Pet Will if you like.
4. What if my chosen caregivers are unable or unwilling to care for my pet(s) when the time comes?
It’s essential to designate alternative caregiver(s) in your (pet) estate plan. Discuss this possibility with your primary caregivers.
Estate planning for pet owners is an act of love and responsibility. By taking the necessary steps to include your pets in your estate plan, you can ensure their continued well-being and happiness, even when you are no longer there to care for them. Your furry, feathered, or scaly friends will thank you for your thoughtful and compassionate planning.