Estate planning is a process that largely focuses on assets and human relationships. You can provide for a child with special needs, a spouse who has become medically and financially dependent on you and other people that you love. You set the terms that ultimately establish your legacy.
Some individuals focus on achieving certain levels of support for their loved ones, while others prioritize allocating certain assets to certain people. All too often, people overlook their beloved companion animals or pets when planning their estate.
You absolutely want to consider what will happen to the animals that you love and care for if you die or wind up in the hospital indefinitely.
You can leave your pet to a specific family member
One of the simplest ways to provide for a pet after your death is to include them in your last will. You can name the family member who will receive the animal after your death and even set aside assets for that person or the care of the pet.
Unfortunately, this approach has a couple of significant limitations. Once the animal passes to your family member, they own it and can do what they want with it. They could choose to euthanize the animal or surrender it to a shelter. If you leave assets directly to the animal, that might create a secondary incentive for family members to euthanize your pet so that the inheritance passes to them.
You can create a trust to ensure that your pet receives adequate care
Although it takes a little more planning and investment, making a trust is probably the best way to protect an animal that you love. It allows you to set certain standards and also designate what happens to any remaining assets after the animal dies of natural causes. Naming two separate people to serve as the trustee and the animal’s caretaker will substantially reduce the likelihood of mistreatment of the animal or misappropriation of the assets you set aside for its care.
Thinking about the typical lifespan for the animal and the cost could incur as it gets older can help you decide the best way to provide for your pet in your estate plan.