Q. What planning techniques should I consider in estate planning for my pet?
A. Pet owners often forget or purposely do not plan for their pets in the event their pets should outlive them. If your pet is important to you and you have a plan for it after your death, you should consider the following:
- Make a disposition of the pet in your will or trust to a relative or friend. After the pet is given to them, it becomes their property and they are free to do with it as they see fit.
- You may also give instructions as to the disposition of your pet in your “Separate Writing” or “Letter of Instruction” authorized by your will.
- If you wish your pet to be “put to sleep” upon your death, you should leave the appropriate instructions with your personal representative or other family members.
- If you wish to leave part of your estate for the maintenance and care of your pet for the life of the pet, you should consider the use of a trust to eliminate court fees and probate cost for this type of activity. Provisions for the remainder of any monies after the pet’s death should also be made.
It is not uncommon for pet lovers who have no children to leave their entire estates to the SPCA or other concerns such as the Seabird Sanctuary. This type of giving can also offer certain types of tax advantages to larger estates.
Few people plan for disabilities resulting in their being unable to take care of themselves and their pet. In many cases, the use of a living trust can provide a guardianship plan for themselves and their pet without having to use the guardianship court. This type of planning can eliminate attorney fees and court costs. The selection of a trustee to take over upon death or incapacity is critical to successful planning of this type.