For many people with animals, those furry friends are a part of the family. We make exceptions for them to make sure that they are taken care of while we are alive, and it is not uncommon for people to include provisions in their estate planning for pet care after a human companion passes away. Making sure your pets are taken care of after you pass is an important part of responsible pet ownership as well as an important part of comprehensive estate planning. However, a recent article from Fox News provides some reminders of traps to avoid when including your pets in your estate plan.
An Important Consideration
If you include provisions for your pet(s) in your estate plan, make sure they are realistic. A pet does not fit into everyone’s life, so when approaching estate planning for pets you first need to be confident that the person you nominate to care for your pet(s) is ready and able to accept the responsibility. This means that you will need to have a serious discussion with the person you are designating as the caretaker before you create provisions in your estate plan involving them. This important reminder extends to a number of different aspects beyond pets – and an experienced estate planning attorney can help you approach them correctly.
Things to Avoid
It is also advisable to avoid outrageous provisions when it comes to pet care. No matter how much money you leave to ensure your pets are cared for, you should try to avoid demands such as feeding a pet filet mignon or homemade roasted chicken each night. Even if you have been capable of doing this, it is difficult for anyone to comply with these types of provisions. It is also likely unhealthy for your pet. The same goes for other aspects of pet care, such as requiring silk sheets for a pet bed. If you want to make sure your pet has these comforts, then be sure you are able to provide them and have them available for anyone inheriting your non-human heirs.
Perhaps most importantly, you should avoid leaving astronomically high amounts of your estate for long-term pet care. While increasingly common for celebrities and eccentric individuals with large estates, it is unlikely that your pet will require millions of dollars – or even tens of thousands of dollars – to live a comfortable and happy life after you are gone. You certainly need to make sure that you leave enough for your pet to be cared for properly, but you do not need to overdo it. Additionally, regardless of the amount that you do designate for pet care, you need to make sure that your estate plan contains provisions for where remaining funds designated for your pet will go should your pet also pass away. Otherwise, you risk losing a sizable chunk of your estate to the state simply because of an oversight in your estate plan.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is an extremely important part of planning for your pets. If you are struggling to find someone to care for your pet, you may want to look into a reputable animal protection organization that can provide the care your pet needs. This can be an especially beneficial option for individuals with limited estate plans, and also provides you with the opportunity to leave the excess to the organization so that any remaining funds you have left for your pet are put to good use for a cause you care deeply about. You may also want to consider pet care trusts and a variety of other estate planning mechanisms that can help you make sure your goal of taking care of your pet for life is accomplished.