Legal planning for pets is still the exception rather than the rule, but for animal lovers, the end result can be heartbreaking.
It’s not uncommon for seniors' pets to appear at an animal shelter. This is because they’re often abandoned when their owners become infirm or die without making any arrangements for their pets to be taken in by someone else.
Reuters’ recent article, “Your Money: How to protect your prized pet with a trust,” acknowledges that wills and estate plans are hard enough for most of us to comprehend, let alone thinking of planning for our pets. A total of only 67% of Americans over 55 have a will, and provisions for pets have been thought of as a fancy of the ultra-rich. Some of the bad association stems from a 2007 lawsuit over real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley's attempt to leave $12 million to her dog, which was later reduced to $2 million.
One way to solve this issue is to create a trust for your pets. Work in this area has evolved and there are now ways for pet owners to make legal arrangements so their animal companions don’t end up abandoned. When a pet owner is incapacitated or dies and there’s no plan for the pet, by law, they are deemed to be abandoned and are required to go to a city shelter. In other words, the pets are deemed to be property.
Only about 25% of people make a provision for their pets in their wills. It’s easy to add. In fact, it can be as simple as providing “I leave my dog to...” However, you can also do more and write in details, such as “My dog Fluffy only eats Alpo dog food, and please take him to his vet, Dr. Applewhite.”
You can also leave funds for the care of the pet and more detailed instructions in a formal document. The average person leaves $25,000 for the animal’s care, but every situation is different. Speak with a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in estate planning for pet owners to protect your beloved furry family members.
Reference: Reuters (December 13, 2016) “Your Money: How to protect your prized pet with a trust”