A much more common question that is being asked by clients when discussing their final affairs is what will happen to their pets when they pass away? For a lot of families, their pet, whether it is their dog, cat, bird, or exotic animal, is very important to their family and they would want to make sure that their pet is taken care in the event of their death. For instance, my wife and my son are the two most important people in my personal life. However, in close third is our dog Curly. If I were to die unexpectedly, I would want to make sure that Curly is taken care of for the rest of her days and does not spend the last of her days in a animal shelter.
In the simplest terms, your pet is property and is considered an asset just like any other asset when you die. Now, most of us do not view our pet as property but as a part of our family. However, the law does view a pet as property and would be part of your estate at death.
Most individuals and families would want to believe that at their death, that the family pet would continue to be part of the family with a close relative, such as their adult child or their spouse. However, and unfortunately, that is not always the case. For example, when the surviving spouse dies, the adult children do not always take the pet into their home and care for the pet with their family. All too often the pet ends up being taken to an animal shelter to hopefully be adopted by a new family. However, we have all heard the terrible stories that occur when an animal is at an animal shelter for too long and is not adopted.
Therefore, it is very important to be proactive and ensure that your family knows your wishes when it comes to providing for the pets that you leave behind. An extremely important way to state your wishes in this regard is with proper estate planning including a Revocable Living Trust, Will, Power of Attorneys, and Living Will. For instance, you can add a pet planning component to your trust document that provides for a close family member or trusted friend to be caregiver of the pet, and set aside a certain amount of trusts assets to be used for the maintenance, care, and support for the animal for a predetermined number of years. This way, when you die, you would have the peace of mind in knowing that the pet that you leave behind is going to be properly cared for, and the trusted family member or friend that you selected is going to be adequately compensated for providing for your pet for the pet’s remaining years.
However, there are other ways in which to plan for the pet that you leave behind. But these will be covered in later blog articles.