A comprehensive estate plan is critical for everyone, but some people may not realize that they need one. People with pets need to ensure that their pets are cared for. Loved ones left behind may not care for the animals in the way you would have liked. In some cases, animals are euthanized due to a lack of planning.
Your estate plan can outline a plan for your beloved pets. You need to think carefully about how you handle this matter because there are a few interesting points to think about.
Will or trust?
One question that comes up quite often is whether a person needs to use a will or a trust to leave assets for the pet. The answer to this is straightforward. A pet can’t own property so you can’t leave the pet money or assets in the will. In the will, you can name the caretaker. If you choose to leave that person assets in the will, there is no oversight to how the assets are used after they are distributed.
Pennsylvania law allows pet trusts to pass assets along that can be used to care for the pet. This option ensures that the assets you leave for the pet are used only for the care of that pet. It is possible to use one pet trust to provide care for more than one animal. The trust remains valid until no animals covered by the trust remain alive.
Any other considerations?
One positive aspect to having a pet trust instead of a will is that the pet trust can be set up to go into effect immediately upon your death. A will takes time to be executed. This might not be a huge deal for a pet that doesn’t have any medical complications. If your pet does have something like a chronic medical condition that is costly to treat, using a trust may ensure no delay in treating the condition.
Another interesting aspect of animal care after your death is that you can set specific criteria for the disbursement of money. If you have cash set aside for the care of the animal, you can stipulate that the person caring for the pet is not told about the money. Once they’ve had the animal for a predetermined amount of time, such as six months, the money can be distributed.
Who should care for the animal?
You need to choose someone who will care for the animal like you do. This might be a family member, but could also be a friend. You may consider naming more than one person in case your first choice of caretake isn’t able to take on the responsibility. Another thing to think about is that you might need to name a person other than the caregiver as the trustee over the pet trust. This adds another level of accountability.