When pet owners die and no family members are able or willing to take in their pets, most dogs and cats end up in a shelter, unloved and unwanted. Since many of these animals are also older, they are less likely to find forever homes.
Reuters’ recent article, “Your Money: How to protect your prized pet with a trust,” acknowledges that wills and estate plans are hard enough for most of us to comprehend, let alone thinking of planning for our pets. A total of only 67% of Americans over 55 have a will, and provisions for pets have been thought of as a fancy of the ultra-rich. Some of the bad association stems from a high profile 2007 lawsuit over real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley's attempt to leave $12 million to her dog, which was later reduced to $2 million.
One way to solve this issue is to create a trust for your pets. Work in this area has evolved and there are now ways for pet owners to make legal arrangements so their animal companions don’t end up abandoned. When a pet owner is incapacitated or dies and there’s no plan for the pet, by law, they are deemed to be abandoned and are required to go to a city shelter. In other words, the pets are deemed to be property.
Only about 25% of people make a provision for their pets in their wills. It’s easy to add. In fact, it can be as simple as providing “I leave my dog to...” However, you can also do more and write in details, such as “My dog Fluffy only eats Alpo dog food, and please take him to his vet, Dr. Applewhite.”
Don’t forget to leave funds for the care of the pet. You should be able to figure out how much will be necessary by taking a look at the annual cost of care and feeding the pet, and then estimate how long you expect your animal companion to live. An estate planning attorney will be able to help you work through the details, and include care for your beloved furry friend in your estate plan.
Reference: Reuters (December 13, 2016) “Your Money: How to protect your prized pet with a trust”