While we all hope to live long healthy lives, estate planning documents help to plan for the future, while addressing what would happen today if you pass. Most people forget that even though these documents are good for life, as life changes and grows, these documents should be updated (See How often should I update my Plan and other frequently asked questions ). All parents hope to live well after their child is financially and physically dependent on them, but should plan for the worst by executing estate documents which select guardians and conservators to care for their children in the event the unforeseen tragedy arises today. Those same provisions can be made for those members of the family with four legs, tails, scales, or feathers.
This doesn’t mean that you need to leave your entire life savings to Rex so he can live out his days at the puppy spa with a gold platted collar, but failing to prepare for what happens to pets in the event that you pass can leaves those beloved members in limbo.
One option is the inclusion of a Pet Trust provision in your estate plan. A pet trust can provide for a pet, setting aside a specific amount of funds for the animal’s care, naming the party responsible for the animal’s future care, and even providing for how afterlife care for the pet should be handled. Any such trust must be drafted in such a way to incentivize the long-term care of the pet in the same manner that the owner would have cared for them. For example, John drafted a pet trust naming Jack the caregiver of his beloved 6-year-old Golden Retriever, Lassie. Jack is also the Trustee of the Trust. John’s Pet trust was funded with $15,000.00 which would be used for any vet bills or food costs for Lassie. John’s Trust also provided that upon Lassie’s death, all remaining funds would be distributed to Jack. Aside from Jacks love for pets and hopeful good nature, what is to prevent Jack from being incentivized to see to Lassies untimely demise to collect a larger balance of the Pet Trust funds?
When drafting a Pet Trust, it will be important for you and your attorney to consider these types of incentives. Just like in planning for guardians for children, pet trusts should name successor caregivers, consider trust protectors to supervise the caregiver and assure the owners wishes are being carried out, and take into consideration the life expectancy of the pet and the average amount of funds needed to care for the pet over the remaining expected life.
Estate planning assures that your wishes and desires are continued well after you are unable to. For many of us, this should include thinking of all of our loved ones, no matter how many legs, beaks, or feathers they may have.
To address your estate plan needs contact the experienced attorneys at Kelly & Kelly Law P.C. to arrange a consultation. From Florida to Michigan, the attorneys at Kelly & Kelly P.C. are here to assist with your Probate, Will, Trust, and Estate planning needs.