Whether your family includes a “Fido”, a “fluffy”, or a more unique pet, the odds are favorable that some type of animal is part of your family. As part of your family, you likely worry about how you can provide for your pets in your estate plan. The good news is that including a pet in your estate plan can be accomplished in more than one way. The important thing is to choose the best option.
People often make the mistake of believing that a simple verbal agreement to care for a pet in the event of the owner’s death will suffice. There are several reasons why this is not the case. First, a verbal agreement does not tell the executor of your estate what your intentions are regarding your pet. Therefore, in the aftermath of your death, the executor of your estate may have no idea what to do with your beloved pet. In addition, although the intended caregiver may have had the best of intentions when agreeing to care for your pet, life sometimes intervenes. When the time comes, the intended caregiver may not be alive or may not be in a position to be able to care for your pet. Finally, a verbal agreement does not address the funds needed to care for your pet. Expecting someone to take on the financial expenses involved in caring for an animal is often unrealistic.
Gifting your pet in your Last Will and Testament is another option. Though you may not view your pet as your property, the law does. Using your Will provides a legal transfer of ownership, unlike a verbal agreement, but also has drawbacks. If you wish to ensure that your pet receives specific care, for example, your Will cannot provide that assurance. Furthermore, while you can gift the funds needed to care for your pet in your Will, you have no way of knowing that those funds will actually be used for the care of your pet because once the funds are transferred there is no further oversight.
The good news is that there is a better solution – a pet trust. Creating a pet trust allows you to appoint a trustee who will manage the trust funds and oversee the trust terms. Those terms can also be used to ensure that your pet is cared for in the manner in which you care for him or her. Creating a pet trust allows you the most control over both your pet’s future care and the funds you designate for that care.
Consult with your Illinois estate planning attorney about including a pet trust in your overall estate plan.
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