For many of us, our pets are our family. Let’s be honest, sometimes we like them better than the human members of our family. This realization has become especially apparent to many of us who are quarantining at home with our spouses, children, and/or pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. What happens to your pets if you get sick and require hospitalization, placement in a residential care facility or worse, pass away? DOES YOU ESTATE PLAN PROVIDE FOR YOUR PET?
I have been an attorney for 15 years and worked exclusively in the area of Trust, Estates, Probate and Elder Law for nearly three decades. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen provisions for pets in estate plans. I cannot count how many times it has been an issue though. Usually, it ends up with the pets being placed with a rescue or worse an animal shelter. As an animal lover and pet parent, I can tell you this is not a good outcome for the pet, especially if it is a senior who is less likely to be adopted. They are scared and lost without their pet parent and this fear and confusion is only compounded by being in unfamiliar surroundings. Even the best rescues and pet advocates cannot provide a familiar face or environment for a pet displaced due to the absence of their human. If you are concerned about keeping your pet with you for as long as possible or providing quality care for them in the event you aren’t able to be with them, you should know that California law allows for individuals to provide for companion animals in their estate plans. They are commonly referred to as Pet Trusts.
Although Pet Trusts add an extra step and some additional expense to the administration of your Trust, for some people it is the only way to ensure that their pet’s quality of life is maintained in the event of incapacity or death. If you have loving children who all get a long and love your pets as if they were their own siblings, you may not need to take the precaution of providing for your pets in your estate plan. However, if the beneficiaries of your estate have their own pets, children and careers and caring for your pet may not be at the top of their “To Do List,” you may want to make provisions for the care and support of your pet in your estate plan. These provisions include instructions for what happens during your lifetime and upon your death…and set aside funds to carry out those instructions.
Whether you have an existing estate plan or no estate plan at all, Cannon Legal Firm can help you with a new estate plan, which includes a Pet Trust or an amendment to your existing plan that will provide for your pet. It may be that your situation doesn’t require a special trust for your pet, but rather a conditional gift to the individual who will care for your pet or a provision and funding for a well-respected rescue or animal sanctuary to provide for your pet for the rest of its life.
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