Does Your Estate Plan Include Your Pets?

Photo courtesy of Krista Mangulsone

Pets are like children to many people. If you own a pet like I do, you know that we love to spoil our pets, show them lots of love, take them on vacation, feed them treats, take selfies with them, and spend many joyful moments with them.

I am often asked by pet owners if they can provide for their pets in their estate plans, just as you would provide for children. Yes, you certainly can include your pets in your estate plan. I draft pet provisions all the time for clients’ Trusts and Wills.

You can even create a separate Pet Trust for your pets. You probably don’t need to leave $12 million to your pet like Leona Helmsley did, however. The New York hotel heiress disinherited many close family members and left $12 million in a Pet Trust for her dog, Trouble. Of course, there was a long court battle after Ms. Helmsley’s death. In the end, Trouble lived a life of luxury with a “measley” $2 million in trust.

It doesn’t take millions to make sure that your pet is cared for after your death. You can create a Pet Trust or include pet provisions in your Revocable Living Trust. Either way, the Trustee will be authorized to pay whatever expenses you deem necessary for your pet’s daily care.

If you don’t have a Trust, you can include pet provisions in your Last Will and Testament. I typically recommend that the client leave the pet, pet supplies, and a sum of money to a responsible person or animal charity which will take good care of your pet. It’s a good idea to speak with the person or charity first, to make certain that that person or charity can and will take care of your pet after your death.

When it comes time to prepare or update your estate plan, don’t forget about Spot, Kitty, and Max!

Maria Shinn and Sherry Fry have a combined 40 years of experience in estate planning. Contact The Shinn Law Firm if you would like to schedule a consultation.

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