Pets are an essential part of many people’s lives. They provide company and protection, and they can even motivate their humans to go out and get some exercise. For many of us, our pets are members of our family. It’s generally recommended that older humans who live alone with their pets have a plan if Fluffy or Rover outlives them.
This plan can be a simple agreement for a family member to take the animal, or the human can make arrangements with a non-profit organization that finds safe new homes for the animal if that time comes. However, it may make sense to include a pet in your estate planning, particularly if there is more than one, or the care or expense could be a financial burden.
Writing them into a will
This is an excellent place to start the thinking process, but it may not cover the whole picture. Animals are considered property under Pennsylvania law, and wills distribute property, but wills that bequeath property to a pet may not be legally enforceable, thus not ensuring the pet’s well-being once the human passes.
Trusts offer more control
News outlets often splash headlines about the superrich leaving millions to their faithful dog or cat. However, creating a reasonable trust is a smart option for many. In 2006, Pennsylvania adopted the Uniform Trust Act. Your estate planner can create a worry-free pet trust under Pennsylvania Statutes, Section 7738(a) of Title 20, to ensure that all the pets’ needs are addressed during their lifespan. If there is more than one animal, the trust lasts until the last animal passes. Any remaining money can then be redistributed according to your wishes.
In a pet trust, your beloved pet can be entrusted to someone, along with the funds necessary to care for the pet according to the instructions in the trust document. In addition to identifying your pet, and the pet’s medical needs and standard of living you desire, a person is appointed as a trustee of your pet so that trustee can ensure that there is a person who will care for the animal(s) and that the person fulfills their obligations.
Not sure where to start?
Plans for pets are now a standard part of the estate planning conversation. Those with questions about what to do or how to proceed can discuss it with the attorney who drafted their estate plan, or have another attorney handle this important matter.