Can You Include Your Dog in Your Will? Estate Planning and Pets
Estate Planning and Pets: Including Your Furry Friend in a Will or Trust
Pet care is an often-overlooked part of estate planning, but interest in it is growing fast. Despite the stories that you might have heard about eccentric millionaires giving their fortunes to their pets after they die, it isn’t actually possible to bestow money or property to an animal in your will. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t work to ensure that your furry friend is cared for after your passing. Here are just a few of the options available to pet owners when planning their estates.
Last Will and Testament
Your first option is to use a will to leave both your pet and the funds necessary to care for them to a trusted caretaker. Don’t just pick someone at random – you need to have an open and honest discussion with the potential caretaker to confirm that they are both willing to and capable of providing your dog or cat with the love and attention they deserve. That said, this method doesn’t provide much in terms of accountability. There’s nothing to stop the caretaker from pocketing the money for their own purposes.
Unlike a will, a trust allows for oversight for your designated caretaker. Including your pet in your trust means that your designated caretaker is legally responsible for the animal’s wellbeing after your death or incapacitation. While setting up a pet trust is a little more complicated than drafting a will, the caretaker can be sued if they don’t follow your instructions. Doing so requires extra paperwork, and you’ll need to find someone to enforce the terms of the trust in your absence as well. You should also give instructions on how any remaining money should be used upon the pet’s passing. Because of the extra work involved in setting up a trust, it’s advised that you engage a trusted local estate planning attorney for assistance.
Thankfully, there are options for pet owners who don’t have anyone in their lives to serve as caretaker for their pets when they’re gone. For example, the SPCA and other animal advocates have programs in place to match your pet with a qualified caretaker so that you don’t need to find one yourself. You can also rely on non-binding, informal agreements with your friends and family, so long as you’re sure that they can be trusted.
For estate planning services with a personal touch, contact FL Patel Law PLLC by visiting our consultation page or by calling (727) 279-5037.