Estate planning attorneys help you to make sure your family members are provided for and cared for even if something happens to you and you are not there to be able to provide care yourself. When you make your estate plan, you don’t want to forget your animal family members. If you have dogs, cats, any other domestic pets, or any animals who depend upon you, you need to consider what will happen to your animals in the event of your incapacity or your death.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior has extensive experience helping clients with the pet planning process. Whether you want to make a standalone pet plan or whether you want to incorporate pet planning into your broader estate planning process, our compassionate and knowledgeable legal team can provide you with help in taking the necessary steps to ensure that your animals are safe and secure even if something happens to you.
According to the ASPCA, an estimated 7.6 million companion animals are surrendered annually. All too often, these companion animals were once beloved pets but their owner has become incapacitated or has passed away and is not able to care for them any longer. When animals are left homeless after the death of an owner, those animals face a significant risk to their future.
You do not want to leave your animal at risk of being left without a caretaker, so one of the most basic and important building blocks of a pet plan is naming a guardian for your pet. You should select a trusted person who you can count on to take care of your animal if something happens to you and you should work with an estate planning lawyer to specify that your chosen guardian will take care of your pet in case of your incapacity or your death. You should also consider naming a backup guardian to be on the safe side, as you never know when something could end up happening and your chosen guardian won’t be able to provide care for the pet.
The care of an animal can be very expensive, so you may also want to consider making a financial plan to provide for your animal as well as specifying who your pet’s caretaker should be. Leaving money to your animal in a last will and testament is not typically the best way to provide for your pet’s care since obviously your animal cannot manage the money you have left to him. You may also not want to just leave money to the guardian chosen for your pet as there is no guarantee the money you leave will be spent for your desired purposes.
If you want to ensure that you have provided a fund dedicated specifically to the care of your animals, you can create a trust. When you create a trust, you use a trust document to specify exactly what should happen to the assets in the trust and you use the trust document to specify how you want the money used for the benefit of your animal. You will need to name a trustee who has a fiduciary duty to carry out your wishes, follow your instructions, and use the trust in the best interests of your animal.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior can help you with all of these different steps of pet planning and with taking all appropriate steps to provide care for your animal after you are gone.
We can work with you to create trusts to provide for the care of your animals and to otherwise make effective use of legal tools so your animal companions are safe and secure no matter what the future holds.