Dog and Its Owner

Estate Planning for your pets

Those of us who think of our companion animals as family members are aware of our responsibility to these dependent creatures. It is important to make sure that their care and comfort continue uninterrupted should we become incapable of caring for them ourselves. One way to plan for that contingency is to set up something called a pet trust. To help you decide if this may work for you, here are some basic definitions and guidelines to keep in mind:

Note: Albert's Dog Lounge can not provide any legal advice. 

Can You Leave Money for Pets?

You cannot leave money or other kinds of property to your pet. The law says animals are property, and one piece of property cannot own another piece of property. However, you can plan to make sure that your pet has a good life after you die. Use your estate plan to make sure that:

  1. Your pet goes to a caring person or organization, and

  2. The new caretaker has the resources to take good care of him or her.

Options for Estate Planning for Pets

When planning for your pet's life after your death, you have a range of options – from making simple, non-legal arrangement, to making a complex trust, to leaving your pet with an organization dedicated to taking care of pets after an owner's death.

To make any of these arrangements, you need to find a person or organization that you trust to care for your pet. And that person or organization needs to be willing to do it. So no matter which option you choose, have a candid conversation with your pet's potential caretaker about how to care for your pet and how expenses will be met.

  • Pets in Your Will

Again, you cannot use your will to leave money or property to your pet. If you try, that money or property will be included in your residuary estate, see "What If I Don't Make a Plan," below.

However, you can use your will or living trust to leave your pet -- and money to care for your pet -- to a trusted caretaker or organization.  It's also a good idea to name (and talk to) an alternate caretaker, in case your first choice cannot do the job.

  • Pet Trusts

A stronger, more complicated, and more expensive legal option is to make a pet trust. With a pet trust you can leave your pet, money, and a legal obligation to care for your pet. If the caretaker fails to follow your instructions, he or she can be sued. In your trust document, you:

  • State pets are covered.

  • Name a caretaker.

  • Leave an amount of money to be used for pet care.

  • Describe how the pet should be cared for.

  • Name a person to go to court and enforce the terms of the trust if necessary.

  • State what should be done with any money that's left over when the animal dies.

  • Describe how your pet should be cared for if you can't take care of him or her before your death.

Advantages to using a pet trust. Pet trusts 1) create a legal obligation to care for your pet (as you describe), 2) provide accountability for the money that you leave to the caretaker, and 3) allow you to set up a caretaking plan that will take effect if you become incapacitated.

Disadvantages to using a pet trust. Pet trusts are 1) expensive, 2) inflexible if circumstances change after your death, 3) likely to be more planning and structure than you need if you trust your named caretaker.

  • Non-Legal Arrangements

The easiest and most flexible arrangement for your pet doesn't require formal legalities. If you fully trust your executor and the person who will care for your pet, and you are confident that no one else will claim ownership of your pet, simply tell your executor who should care for your pet when you die. As long as everyone involved is in agreement, there will be no problem for your pet to go to your chosen caretaker. However, if there is any possibility of disagreement about who should own your pet, it is a good idea to make a legal arrangement in your will or through a pet trust.

What If You Don't Make a Plan?

If you don't make arrangements for your pet in your estate plan, who will get your pet depends on what other arrangements you've made, or not made. If you have made a will, your pet will go to your residuary beneficiary – that is, the person you've name to get the remainder of your estate after any specific gifts have been doled out. If you haven't made will, all of your property (including your pet) will be distributed according to the laws of your state,

Can I make Albert's Dog Lounge a guardian?

Each year thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters due to the death of their guardian. Please make sure to designate a guardian for your animals. Accidents and illness can happen at anytime at any age. Ensure your animal is protected for the rest of their life. If you cannot find a guardian, you can consider Albert's Dog Lounge.


We home foster our rescues and provide sanctuary to over 400 dogs year round. We take excellent care of them for life (like our own loved pets), and we would provide them the same loving care for your pet if you choose to make Albert's Dog Lounge the guardian of your pet. We will take care for your pet until we find him or her a loving family home for life like our own pets (adoption match, interview and home visit. We back up for life and take returns.) or they remain with us in a sanctuary foster home.

 

Note: Albert's Dog Lounge can not provide any legal advice, but we are happy to provide any necessary information needed for legal documentation purposes.  Please email albertsdogloungelounge@gmail.com with any questions. 

 

Make a free Pet Trust Here:  https://www.rocketlawyer.com/family-and-personal/estate-planning/set-up-a-trust/document/pet-trust

Other Helpful Websites:

https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/lifestyle/how-to-set-up-a-pet-trust-to-ensure-your-dog-is-cared-for-after-youre-gone/

https://www.reinhartlaw.com/knowledge/pet-trusts-protecting-pet-no-longer-can/

https://www.akcchf.org/how-to-help/donate/planned-giving/pet-trusts.html