It was recently National Love Your Pet Day, and although you might think of your pet as family, under the law, pets are regarded as property – so although you can’t leave them money in your will, there are other ways you can make sure they are protected in the event of your passing.
You may have heard stories of people who left their entire fortune to their dog, but that isn’t exactly how it works. You can leave all your money to ensure your pet will be taken care of after your death, but it needs to be done in a certain way.
Because pets are considered property, you won’t be able to name them as a normal benefactor in your will, says Peter Elikann, Boston 25 legal analyst.
“You hear these sad tragic stories where a pet will live 15 years and the owner suddenly dies and that pet gets suddenly taken away to some shelter,” Elikann said. “You can’t leave money to your property, but you can get around this by setting up a trust on behalf of the dog. You can set it up very specifically saying, ‘I want him fed for the rest of his life, this brand, and I want him taken to this his favorite park, and I want him to be on this kind of blanket.’”
Mary Kate D’Souza is the co-founder of an online health and estate planning company called Gentreo. She says that these days, more people are planning around their pet.
“In America now, not as many people are getting married now and having families and their animals are their families and so they want to take care of them,” D’Souza said.
As part of their plans, they are now offering pet power of attorney. “It helps particularly with financial issues because vets and other caregivers are reluctant to do a major surgery,” said D’Souza.
She says it’s a concern for people who travel frequently and are not always immediately reachable online or by phone.
“A friend of ours, his girlfriend was in charge of his pet and the pet required a $7,000 surgery to be made healthy and the vet wouldn’t do it,” D’Souza said.
However, a pet power of attorney won’t help in case of owner death, so they are now considering offering a product to put together pet care trusts next. “Your pet is viewed as your property, so it would be distributed as your property, so in order to make sure your pet is financially cared for you need to do a pet trust,” D’Souza said.
It’s important to never assume that an informal arrangement will be enough. Circumstances can change unexpectedly. Legally binding documents ensure there’s a person to care for your pet, either temporarily or for the rest of your pet’s life.
For help creating or updating the legal documents to ensure your pet will be cared for according to your wishes, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, 708-482-7090 or firstname.lastname@example.org