Estate Plans Should Include Provisions for Pets

Many seniors fail to consider their pets when building an estate plan, an oversight that often finds them homeless or in animal shelters, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

People often incorrectly assume they will outlive their pet, or that a friend or family will take care of their pet when they are gone, according to Anne Culver, director of Disaster Services for the Humane Society. Formal provisions can ensure a pet will receive proper care in a loving home after its owner has passed away.

It is important to outline a temporary plan for a pet before even drafting a long-term plan. Estate plans can take time to carry out, especially if they are contested, but pets need daily care and immediate attention. A designated friend, family member or neighbor can ensure a pet’s needs are met while an estate plan is being carried out.

Formal, long-term arrangements for a pet can be created with the help of a lawyer in the form of a special will, trust, or other document. When selecting a caregiver, seniors should consider close family or friends who have met the pet and who have successfully cared for a pet of their own. If an estate plan includes more than one pet, they should be kept together, especially if they have bonded. Seniors should keep in contact with potential caregivers over time to ensure that their circumstances have not changed, and they are still willing to care for the pet.

In the event that a caregiver cannot be found, the executor of a will can be authorized to find a satisfactory new home for a pet. This may take time, so careful instructions and proper funding are paramount. An estate plan can include funding for a pet’s temporary and permanent expenses.

A trust for a pet may also be set up as an alternative to a will. Unlike a will, which only takes effect upon death, a trust goes into effect as soon as a senior becomes incapacitated. This means that a pet can be cared for immediately.
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