If you are among the almost 80 million households in the United States who own a pet, you likely consider your furry companion to be a member of the family.1 While most people include provisions in their estate plan for the guardianship of their minor children, few include instructions for how their pets will be taken care of should they outlive their owner.
Without planning ahead, your beloved pet may be placed in a shelter, rather than in the care of a loving family member or friend. When drafting your estate plan, consider the following options to ensure your pet will be taken care of.
Designate a Pet Guardian in Your Will
Similar to a guardian for your children, you can use your Last Will and Testament to designate a guardian for your pet. You may want to discuss this with your family in advance to confirm your chosen pet guardian is up for taking on the responsibility, allowing you to choose an alternate if needed.
Create a Pet Trust
A pet owner can use a pet trust to help pay for the pet’s care in the event of the owner’s death or disability. The grantor places assets or funds into the trust for the designated caregiver to receive payments on a regular basis. Once you finalize the pet trust, share copies with the caregiver, veterinarian and another party – such as a close friend or family member who is not the caregiver. Pet trust laws vary by state, such as the maximum trust duration, so consult with your estate planning attorney to create a pet trust.
Create Pet Protection Agreement
A Pet Protection Agreement is similar to a pet trust in that it is a legal document designating a pet caregiver or guardian, but does not require an attorney to make the agreement valid, making it a good option for those with financial limitations. Pet Protection Agreements do have some limitations and, depending on the amount of money you include in the fund, a pet trust provides more legal protection. Give copies of the finalized Pet Protection Agreement to the caregiver, veterinarian and a close friend or family member who is not the designated caregiver.
Write Instructions for Your Pet’s Immediate Care
Write plans for your pet’s immediate care following your death. Discuss these with your family and designated pet guardian to make sure your pet’s welfare does not get lost in the shuffle. Include detailed instructions for your pet’s care, especially if they have unique diet or medical needs.
The decisions you make for your pet’s welfare will vary based on what works best for your family, pet and financial situation. But with proper planning, you can rest assured knowing your furry companions will be well looked after.