If your BFF is a furry friend, you love and adore them; they are an important part of your life. So it only makes sense that you want the best for your pet even after you are gone. But estate planning for your beloved furry friend may be more complex than you think. When it comes to providing for your pet, it is important to know two things:
- A pet is considered property under the law &
- When someone receives your pet in your Will, they can do whatever they want with that property.
Your Will Doesn’t Cut It
Under the law, a pet is considered personal property, just like your money, furniture, and clothes. Because of this, you can’t leave money or possessions to your pet directly through your Will. If you leave money directly to your pet in your Will, the money will instead skip your pet and pass to the beneficiaries you named to receive the remainder of your possessions. And if you didn’t name anyone else, the court will give your possessions, including your pet, to your next of kin.
Worst of all, the person that receives your pet and any money left for the care of your pet in your Will, has absolutely no legal obligation to use that money for your pet’s care or even to keep your pet at all.
A Will Provides No Guarantees
For Their FutureBecause you can’t leave money to your pet directly, your first thought might be to leave your pet and money for its care to someone you trust through your Will instead. This option is not likely to work.
That’s because the person you name as the beneficiary of your pet in your Will has no legal obligation to use the funds you leave for your pet’s care for that purpose. Even if you leave detailed instructions for your pet’s care, your beneficiary does not have to accept the responsibility of caring for your pet. Nothing stops them from changing their mind and abandoning your BFF.
You might think that the person you’d leave your pet to would love them and would never abandon them. (Ask the local shelter how often they see this happen). Even if your chosen person is committed to caring for your pet, it’s simply impossible to predict what circumstances might occur in the future that could make it impossible for them to provide for your pet for the rest of your pet’s life.
And a Will Isn’t Fast Enough
The other issue a Will creates for your pet is that a Will is required by law to go through the court process known as probate before any of your property can be distributed to the people you’ve named, and of course, it only operates in the event of your death, not your incapacity.
The probate process itself can take months (a minimum of 8 months on a good day) or even years to complete. During that time, your pet could be passed around between those who argue over who should care for it. In the worst-case scenario, no one may even think to check in on your pet regularly while the court process is unfolding.
Plus, a Will only goes into effect upon your death, so if you’re incapacitated by accident or illness, it would do nothing to protect your companion. This leaves your pet in limbo and vulnerable to being rehomed to someone you would not have chosen or wanted to care for your pet. In the worst scenario, your pet could be surrendered to a shelter by the time everything gets figured out.
Provide Long-Lasting Care for Your Pet Through a Pet Trust
In order to be completely confident that your pet is properly taken care of and that the money you leave for its care is used precisely as intended, ask us to help you create a Pet Trust.
By creating a Pet Trust, you can lay out detailed, legally binding rules for how your pet’s chosen caregiver (the trustee) can use the funds you leave for your furry friend. And unlike a Will, a Pet Trust will go into effect immediately in the event you become incapacitated or pass away.
Do Right By Your Pet
With a Pet Trust, all of the care decisions and financial distributions for your pet will happen in the privacy of our office in the event of your death or incapacity. Unlike a Will, a Pet Trust doesn’t go through probate, which means it goes into effect immediately if you become incapacitated or pass away. We’ll guide your decision-makers about how and why you made your decisions and how they need to care for your pet to receive distributions. And, while that may seem excessive for some, it is perfect for those clients who care so much about the well-being of their pets and want to ensure their pet gets plenty of tender loving care in the future.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and ensure you’re doing right by your pet.