Providing For Pets In Your Estate Planning
Estate planning and pets?
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge effect on the lives of pets. In the beginning, during complete lockdown and extended time working from home, pet adoptions soared, and once over-crowded pet shelters were emptied. It became difficult to find a pet. During the height of the pandemic tens of thousands of people died leaving their beloved pets behind without anyone to care for them. Many pets were found alone in homes where their owners had been hospitalized and subsequently died.
Prior to the pandemic, statistics show that more than 500,000 pets were euthanized each year because their parent died or became incapacitated. Our pets are such an important part of our lives. They provide unconditional love and companionship, and their lives are completely disrupted when their owners are no longer there. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
If the pandemic has taught pet owners anything at all it is that they need to prepare legal documents as part of their estate planning that address the care of their pets in the event of death or disability.
It’s no different than making preparations so that your two-legged loved ones are cared for. If you have an estate and asset protection plan you can include instructions for the needs of your pets as well. If you don’t have any legal plans for your pet or other loved ones, now is a perfect time to address both.
First Things First
Even before you speak with an attorney, the very first step is to think about who will have physical custody of your pets. Talk with family and friends who you trust to find out who would be willing to open their home to your cat or dog after you pass. Or, if there is not a person who would accept the responsibility, identify organizations that align with your philosophy for providing your pets with daily care for the duration of their lifetime. Think of it the same way you would if you were planning for the care of minor children or even an adult child with conditions that prevent them for providing for their own care. This step could take some time, but must be set before you design a legal pet trust or estate plan.
Have a candid conversation with the potential individual(s) or organizations about their level of commitment and ability to shoulder the expenses associated with your pet. Your estate planning will be helpful in teaching you how how to leave funds to the caretaker for the purpose of meeting the needs of your pet.
Work With An Attorney Experienced In Pet Trusts
When creating a trust for your pet, your attorney must be very clear in order to ensure that your wishes will be enacted appropriately. There are many instances in which directives were not spelled out and subsequently the pets ended up in shelters or not being properly buried. A thorough attorney will ask about food preferences for your pets as well as walking routines. Anything that is important to your pet must be specifically mentioned in your pet trust.
I encourage you to reach out to our firm at 404-370-0696 to ensure that your beloved pets will be properly cared for in the event of your passing or should you become incapacitated and unable to care for them.