From time to time, we have clients who want to take care of their Pets. The conversation is very similar “I want to leave my house to whoever looks after my [dog/cat/horse/other pet].” First, I must say, we understand the emotional support that an animal provides and are willing to help out in any way that we can. But you can’t just leave money to a pet. And you can’t make a vague condition like “anyone who looks after my pet” and expect a Court to enforce it.
Second, when it comes to estate planning you must provide clarity on your wishes and your desires. Therefore, if you want to leave assets to your pet, then a Pet Trust is the way to go. Here’s how a Pet Trust works:
- You must determine which animals are covered by the Pet Trust. The more clarity the better. Often an issue arises when your pet has offspring. Does the money that you’ve provided go towards offspring too? Or is the caretaker free to keep the offspring as their own.
- You must designate someone to be a caretaker. This is the most important decision that you have to make. This is the person who will have custody of your pet and be responsible for the day to day care.
- Determine how much money do you want to leave for the pet’s care. As you can see the appropriate amount varies widely depending on the pet’s age and condition as well as the number of pets.
- You must determine the caretaking instructions. There isn’t a boilerplate set of instructions because animals can’t tell the caregiver what they need or like. Therefore, you must take the time to specify everything from favorite food toys, and sleeping arrangements.
As you can see there are many different aspects to consider when deciding who will take care of your pets. There are two other items of importance: who will take care of your pet before you die and what happens if someone challenges the legality of the pet Trust.
A Trust is perfect if you need someone to take care of your pet before you die because a Trust takes legal effect during your life. While a Will doesn’t have any legal effect until after your death. Wills get challenged all the time. It is rare to see a Trust get challenged because most trusts have very specific language as to what should happen and when it should happen within the Trust Agreement. So, if having someone take care of your animals is important, then give us a call today.