Estate Planning Lawyer
If you have a pet, then you may have wondered whether you can create an estate plan and include them in it. The answer is, absolutely! The specific laws for what you can and cannot prepare for when it comes to your pets within an estate plan will depend on the state you reside in. Generally, pets are treated as property by law. So you cannot leave money or assets directly to your pet, but you can choose someone to take care of them as the new owner, and establish a pet trust so they have the funds needed to continue caring for your pet after your death.
The most straightforward and least expensive way to prepare for your pet after you pass away is to appoint someone to care for them. It is recommended that you speak with the person that you want to be the new owner beforehand, to make sure they are willing to take on this role if needed. It can help to give this person a copy of your will so that they have details of the instructions you’ll leave behind. By doing so, you are giving the caregiver legal grounds to take ownership of your pet immediately after your death. You can leave some money in your will so the caregiver has expenses to properly care for your pet, such as for medical costs, food, toys, and more. Be sure to choose someone that you can depend on as the new caregiver, and someone that you trust to handle the money responsibly and not use for their own personal benefit.
If you want certainty that your pet is to be provided for, you can create a pet trust. A pet trust would last for the lifetime of the pet, appoint a person to continue care for them, and necessitates that the money left behind is used only for the pet’s benefit and nothing else. If you establish a pet trust, you will have to approximate how much money is needed to care for your pet for the rest of their expected lifespan.
If you are unable to find someone that you trust to care for your pet after you are gone, you can consider a charitable organization that will find a home or care for your pet for their remaining lifetime. There are rescues that offer homes for pets and can provide food, medical, and other care for the rest of their life. But typically, programs and arrangements like these require a fairly sizable donation.
As your lawyer would suggest, like an estate planning lawyer families trust at Law Group of Iowa, if you have pets and want to include them in your estate plan, then it is advisable to speak with a legal team who can walk you through the task.