Include your pets in your legacy.
Most people include instructions for distributing valuable assets in their wills but rarely consider their pets.
A neglectful estate plan could leave your pet suffering, starving, or leading a life you would never have chosen. It is quite common for pet owners to entrust their furry friends to a relative or close friend without formal arrangements in place.
The new owner may be unable to keep your pet because of time constraints, allergies, issues with other pets, or a policy prohibiting pets.
A pet owner must draft legal documents to ensure their pet’s future care.
Pet owners love their pets as part of the family, but the law (anywhere) deems them to be “property.”
As such, directives in your will for the care of a pet do not guarantee the pet’s future.
Wills aim to distribute property after death, not to provide instructions on how that property should be cared for and managed.
For example, say the person writing the will (testator) leaves a car to their daughter. She can legally take possession and change the title. Still, it does not mean that she has to insure it (unless driving it), register it (for road tax), or fill the gas tank up – even if daddy asked her to in the will.
On the same note, pets are “property” under the eye of the law. You cannot name a pet as a beneficiary of your will. If you do, the pet’s part will go into your estate.
Suppose you have “proper” named beneficiaries of your will.
In that case, they will inherit your pet and be able to care as you have instructed.
Provisions must be made in the owner’s will to provide for their pet’s care and comfort to prevent unintended consequences.
The pet should be cared for by someone until a probate court accepts the owner’s will after the owner’s death.
Who should look after your Pets in your will?
It is an obvious statement, but a pet owner should find a close friend or family member to take and give the animal a good home when they die.
There should be discussions, not just “will you look after my pet pooch or kitty?” Your pet requires specific maintenance, or if there is no room for your pet.
What about your furry friend?
Funding for Pet Care
If you were to request a legal guardian for your children, you would not expect them to pay their funding growing up, so the same applies to your pet.
Leave some money for your new owner to maintain your pet. As they get older, they cost more with visits to the vet; diets become restricted (food costs more); they develop allergies, etc. But also have someone who would be equally devoted to your pal and not worry about money matters.
Leave some money as a gift to your new pet parent as gratitude.
Shelter or Charitable Organisation to Care for Pets
If no one you know can take your pet, you can ask a local charity or shelter to see if they would take your little pal. They would try and find a good home for them.
You may donate to the organisation as a thank you, but you must leave a cash bequest to cover expenses.
Establishing a Pet Trust
One way to ensure that your pet does inherit your wealth is to create a living trust with your pet as the named beneficiary. A living trust allows you to place some money now to ensure a cash flow, and your will can gift what is not in the trust when you die to the trust.
Your pet is the primary beneficiary when you die, so it can be spoilt and maintained financially without you. You can leave a letter of wishes – this allows the trustee to know how you want the money spent.
Pets, unfortunately, do not live as long as humans, so you should have contingent beneficiaries. When your pet passes away, the contingent inherits. None of the beneficiaries has to be human – you can give the lot to a pet sanctuary if you like.
The earlier you write instructions, the better.
The information provided is related to planning, but what happens to your pet if your demise is sudden?
Please feel free to contact us for more information and learn how to save $000’s on wealth taxes each year with a similar step.