Owning a pet means a lot of playtime, cuddles, and memories throughout the years. Even though it’s difficult, we often wonder how we will adjust if we were to lose our pets. Very rarely do we think about what was to happen to our pets if we were to pass away or suffer from a disability where we were unable to care for them anymore. It is essential to know what options are available to you, your pet, and your finances. Take a look at the common options below and see what preventative action you can take to make sure your furry friends are cared for even after you are gone.
Creating a testamentary pet trust is the most formal option. A testamentary pet trust is created through a provision in your will, and it appoints a trustee to manage the assets of the deceased for the benefit of their pet. Just like any other trust, the amount of money you put into the trust for your pet’s care is up to you. You can also specify which expenses trust assets can be used for, but typically, it includes things like food, shelter, grooming, vet care, and any other necessary pet costs. The trust acts as a legal document binding the trustee to only spend the money on the pet’s care and nothing else.
Depending on the number of trust assets and the lifespan of the beneficiary pet, there may be funds remaining at the end of the pet’s life. Under the terms of the trust, you can designate a family member, friend, or charity to receive any remaining trust assets upon the death of the beneficiary pet.
Pet owners may have multiple pets throughout their lifetime so when drafting your pet trust, you may desire to keep the trust terms generic and applicable to any animal you may have at the time of your death. For instance, you can use the phrase, “any pet that I may have upon my death.” You could also specify which pet(s) are trust beneficiaries using an attached schedule that can be updated as necessary without having to modify the trust document itself.
Include Your Pets in Your Will
You also have the option of providing for your pet in your will without creating a testamentary trust. In your will, you would simply include a provision whereby you give a delegated person x amount of dollars towards caring for your pet(s) in the event of your death. While this method is perhaps more slightly more straightforward than creating a testamentary pet trust, you also sacrifice a degree of control in regulating how the person you choose actually spends the money.
Appoint an Agent for Pets
Another option — created by and available exclusively from Meier Law Firm, PLLC — is to create an Appointment of Agent for Control of Pets, explaining your wishes for your pet’s care in the event of your death or incapacity. This can be a standalone document or it can be used in tandem with a testamentary pet trust or a simple will that includes a provision for your pet(s).
This document appoints an agent who is responsible for rehoming your pet if you are no longer able to care for them due to death or incapacity. You can identify who your preferred choice(s) would be to adopt your pet(s), specify particular shelters/rescues to try if your preferred adopter(s) are unable to take your pet(s), and you may also provide important information relevant to your pets’ care such as the names of your their veterinarian and groomer. Although not legally binding, it provides your loved ones with some guidance as to what should happen to your pet if you’re unable to care for them.
Other Things to Consider
There are a few other key important things to consider when planning for your pet’s care after your death.
- Consider having a plan for your pet(s) not only in the event of your death but in the event of your long-term disability or nursing home placement as well.
- Assess your financial situation and decide what route would be the best for you and your pet(s).
- Talk to the people you are including in any of your plans to make sure that they are on board.
- Plan ahead and be prepared to ensure your pet(s) have somewhere to go.