Even though pets are legally classified as property, they oftentimes mean much more – they are companions, friends and family.  It is not only important to address assets and beneficiaries in your estate plan, but also to address what will happen to your pets should they outlive you.

As is true with other aspects of estate planning, only a legally enforceable document can ensure the continued care of your pet.  It is not uncommon for a pet to be left behind when someone dies, only to be surrendered to a shelter.  Even with promises made between you and friends or family members, numerous reasons can cause such plans to fail – allergies, pet exclusion from rental properties or changes of circumstance.  Luckily, you can plan for what will happen to your pets should they survive you through estate planning.

Plan for your pet in your will.

One way to plan for the care of your pet, is to include such instructions in your will.  You can name the individual who you wish to be the guardian to your pet should he or she outlive you.  I always recommend discussing this arrangement with the named individual prior to putting it in your will, and ensure that they are willing and able to care for your pet should the situation arise.  As an alternative, you can always name an alternative individual to care for your pet should your first guardian of choice be unable or unwilling to perform the duties required.  As a safety net, many individuals often instruct that an individual be responsible for finding a good home for their pet, or that their pet should go to a particular sanctuary, shelter or breed rescue should there not be anybody willing or able to care for them.

You may also instruct that pets remain together, particularly if they were raised together or have bonded.  This will oftentimes not happen automatically without specific instructions.  Oftentimes keeping pets together will require pre-planning to ensure the individual named to care for the pets is able to accommodate the request.

Furthermore, instructions for care may be included in your planning.  Instructions can be instrumental in assisting the transition of your pet to a new home with a new caregiver.

Funding for your pet.

You may choose to leave money to the pet guardian named in the will as well.  If your pet has specific needs or expenses, you may wish to gift a certain amount of money to the guardian to provide for the care of your pet.  Furthermore, sometimes certain shelters will require a specific fee and such amount can be provided for in your estate plan.

Current and future pets.

Your will can be worded to identify current pets, and also encompass any future pets.  Pets that you currently own should be identified specifically by name, animal type and breed and/or color.  You may also choose to include language to include any pets that you may own in the future.  It is entirely plausible that by the time your estate plan is utilized, you have additional or altogether different pets.  Careful drafting can prevent you from having to formally amend or create a new will every time you get a new pet.

Pictured in the heading of this blog post is my dog, Mabel Mae.  She is a year and a half old Cavatzu (Cavalier Shitzu mix).  Mabel is a cherished part of my family, and her care is extremely important to me.  When doing my estate planning, I was surprised to learn that the individuals I anticipated would care for her should she outlive me had certain circumstances or reasons that made them unable or unwilling to take her.  Fortunately, I was able to plan for her care with a close friend of mine who loves dogs and, importantly, loves Mabel!  I feel a peace of mind and sense of security knowing that I have planned for her care should something unexpected happen that leaves her in need of a new home.

Schromen Law, LLC understands the important place pets hold in your heart.  When doing your estate plan with Schromen Law, the future care and needs of your pets will be considered and planned for.  With a focus on complete and thorough estate planning, you may rest assured that this is not a piece that will go overlooked.  Request a consultation to begin planning for the protection of your pets!

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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