If you have a beloved family pet, chances are good that you spend a considerable amount of time and money on your pet. You probably think of your pet as a member of the family and is considered when making major decisions that affect the entire family. Have you considered, however, what will happen to your family pet if something happens to you? The Bellevue pet planning attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC explain how you can protect your pet in your estate plan.
Pets in America
In America, we tend to view domesticated animals very differently than most other countries. We not only own more domestic animals, but we consider them part of the family. In fact, according to the American Pets Products Association (APPA), about 70 percent of American households have at least one pet and collectively we spent almost $110 billion a year on our pets. Not only do we spend money on gifts for our pets, but almost half of American pet owners spend the same amount of money or more on their pets’ healthcare as they do on their own.
Why Is Pet Planning Necessary?
You may view your pet as part of the family; however, if you become incapacitated or die, your pet may be treated as property or forgotten altogether. Millions of family pets end up in shelters every year following the death of their human “owner.” Even if a family member or loved one remembers your pet, there may be legal or practical hurdles that prevent that person from taking over your pet’s care. Incorporating a pet planning component into your estate plan is the solution.
Protecting Your Pet in Your Estate Plan
A pet planning component that includes a pet trust is the best way to protect your family pet because neither a verbal agreement nor using your Last Will and Testament works as well as a pet trust.
A verbal agreement with a family member or friend to care for your pet is problematic in several ways. First, there is no legal way to enforce the agreement, meaning you cannot count on that agreement to protect your pet. Second, although you may not view your pet as your property, the law does, and a verbal agreement does not legally transfer ownership. Finally, a verbal agreement does not provide a funding method for the continued care and maintenance of your pet.
Using a Will to “gift” your pet to a designated caregiver does resolve the issue of the legal transfer of ownership; however, it does not legally obligate your caregiver to take over the care and maintenance of your pet. Furthermore, it is not the best way to leave funds for your pet’s care and maintenance. You can gift funds to the caregiver in your Will; however, the caregiver is not legally obligated to use them for your pet. In addition, gifting a pet in a Will does not address the possibility of your incapacity because the terms of a Will only apply after your death.
A pet trust is the best option. A pet trust operates just like any other trust, requiring you to name a Trustee to oversee the administration of the trust and allowing you to transfer “property” into the trust. The funds you use to fund the trust can be used to care for your pet according to your wishes which can be expressed in the terms of the trust. Unlike a Will, a trust can cover the possibility of your incapacity as well as your death. In addition, a trust is a legally enforceable agreement, meaning the terms you create must be followed.
Contact Bellevue Pet Planning Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding how to protect your pet in your estate plan, contact the experienced Bellevuepet planning attorneys at Legacy Estate Planning, LLC by calling (425) 455-6788 to schedule an appointment.