Deciding who you wish to protect and provide for within your estate plan may appear to be the easiest part of creating your estate plan; however, you may have inadvertently overlooked an important member of the family – your pet. Like many people, you were likely unaware that your pet could be included in your plan, or unsure how to go about doing so. The good news is that incorporating a pet planning component into your estate plan will ensure that your beloved pet is not forgotten if something happens to you. The pet planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kirk Halpin & Associates, P.A. can help you create a plan that will provide for and protect your pet in the event you are unable to do so yourself.
Your Pet Is Part of the Family
In the United States, pets are often thought of as part of the family to an extent that is not supplicated elsewhere in the world. In fact, Americans have twice as many dogs as pets as the next closest country (Brazil) and almost 50 percent more cats as the next closest country (China). We also devote a considerable amount of time and money to our pets, as evidenced by the following statistics:
- Each year, Americans spend $50 billion on their pets
- 1 in 3 Americans admits to giving their dog a birthday present
- 1 in 4 has paid for professional photographs of their furry family member
- 9 out of 10 Americans consider their pet to be part of the family
If you have a family pet, your pet depends on you for everything from affection to financial support. What happens to your pet though, if something happens to you? Sadly, over half a million pets wind up in shelters each year because they are overlooked or abandoned after the death or incapacity of their owner. The way to ensure that your beloved companion does not become a shelter statistic is to include your pet in your estate plan.
How Can Pet Planning Help?
Pet planning incorporates your pet into your overall estate plan to ensure that a plan is in place should you be unable to care for your pet at some point in the future. The plan you create for your pet can be as simple, or as elaborate, as you wish it to be.
Some pet owners simply designate a guardian for their pet in their Last Will and Testament. There are several drawbacks, however, to relying on your Will as your primary pet planning strategy. First, the guardian you designate in your Will is under no legal obligation to fulfill that role, potentially leaving your pet without a caregiver in your absence. Second, although you can also gift funds to your designated guardian in your Will, there is no guarantee that those funds will be used as intended. Finally, your Will is only relevant in the event of your death, meaning your pet is not protected should you become incapacitated.
Should I Create a Pet Trust?
For many pet owners, a pet trust is the solution to ensuring their pet’s care and security in their absence. Like any trust, a pet trust requires you to appoint someone as the Trustee of the trust. Your Trustee can also care for your pet or you can designate another person as your pet’s day to day caregiver. This person will administer the trust and is legally obligated to use the utmost care when managing the trust assets as well as to follow the trust terms just as you wrote them. Those terms can be used to dictate how you wish your pet to be cared for using as much, or as little, detail as you choose. A pet trust provides the legal oversight you need to ensure that the funds you leave behind will be used exclusively for your pet and that your pet’s care will be continued in the manner to which your pet is accustomed. Best of all, a pet trust can also cover incapacity, ensuring that your beloved pet is covered anytime you are unable to care for him or her yourself.
At The Law Offices of Kirk Halpin & Associates, P.A., our pet planning attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that all members of your family are protected in your estate plan, including your family pets. Contact the team today by calling 410-531-1700 or fill out our online contact form so we can help you get started today.