Estate Planning for Fido

Few dogs are lucky enough to be left $12 million by their owners like Leona Hemsley’s Maltese named Trouble. But this doesn’t mean that your pet can’t be provided for when you consider how you want your possessions to be handled in your will.

In Heirs to the Bone – Estate Planning for Pets written by Attorney Frances Carlisle, Ms. Carlisle gives several options to individuals drafting wills and looking to have their pet cared for when they, the pet owners, are no longer around.

Number 1: Make a gift of your pet to someone who will be its caretaker after you die and then have your attorney include a provision in your will leaving the animal to that person. Leave money for expenses the new owner will incur caring for the pet.

Number 2: In your will, give your executor discretion to choose from several people to take your pet. Also give your executor discretion to find a suitable adoptive home in the event there is no one who is willing and able to care for the pet.

Number 3: Make arrangements with a local animal rescue and placement charity to take your pet after you die and find a home for the pet. Name the charity in your will and leave money to the charity.

It is important to include a statement in your will that you are bequeathing all of the animals owned by you at your death. If you name a specific animal in your will, other animals you own will not be covered.

Creating a trust for your pet is another option available to pet owners.The applicable Illinois statute, Ill. Comp. Stat. 760 ILCS5/15.2 which became effective on January 1, 2005, specifically states, “A trust for the care of one or more designated domestic or pet animals is valid”.

You can create a trust which is in existence while you are alive or you can create a trust that comes into existence upon your death. The advantage of creating a trust while you are alive, an inter vivos trust, is that you will have arrangements ready should you be incapacitated or have to go into a nursing home.

Estate planning by pet owners insures that their pets will continue to enjoy a happy life after the owner is no longer around.

Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.