The primary objective of most estate plans is to ensure that those we love are provided for after our death. For most people, loved ones include a spouse, children, and other family members. But What about Fido or Fluffy? If you have a family pet, doesn’t he/she count as one of your loved ones? Just as you provide for and care for your family pet now, don’t you want to do so after your death as well? If so, you may wish to include a pet trust in your overall estate plan.
People frequently overlook the need to include their family pet in their estate plan. Often, the reason for doing so is simply that they are unaware of the options available for including a pet in an estate plan. Another common reason for failing to include pets in an estate plan is the mistaken belief that simply making arrangements with a family member or close friend to care for a pet in the event the need arises is sufficient. The reality is that nothing short of creating a pet trust can really ensure that your pet is care for in the manner in which you care for him/her after your death.
Simply asking a family member or friend to take care of your pet in the event something happens to you often runs into a number of problems. First, although you may not consider your pet to be your property, the law does. Therefore, if you become incapacitated or die you are unable to legally transfer ownership of your pet at that point. More importantly, a verbal agreement has very little “teeth” when it comes to enforcement. Your chosen caregiver could back out of the arrangement at any time and your pet would be left “out in the cold” so to speak. Something could also happen to your chosen caregiver, once again leaving your pet without a caregiver. Finally, a verbal agreement does not provide the means to leave behind funds to be used for the care and maintenance of your pet. Yes, you can simply gift money to your caregiver, but once again there is no legal requirement that those funds be used to care for your pet.
The good news is that a pet trust can resolve all of these issues. A pet trust allows you to appoint a Trustee who will be legally responsible for administering the trust terms as well as managing the trust assets. You are then able to transfer funds into the trust to be used to care for your pet in the event of your incapacity or death. Your trust terms can be used to appoint a caregiver along with one or more successor caregivers. Those terms can also be used to determine everything from what type of food your pet will be given to which veterinarian your pet will use.
If you have a family pet that you consider to be part of the family right now, don’t forget to include him/her in your estate plan! If you have additional question about creating a pet trust, contact the experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.