When it comes time to plan for the future of your estate, you probably have several assets and pieces of property to consider. 401(k)s, trusts, bank accounts, family heirlooms, expensive items of jewelry and more. You will also likely develop a plan for how to care for your children and grandchildren after you’re gone.
But do you have a plan for what will happen to the family cat or dog?
Pets are more than just property. We form emotional, familial bonds with our pets that can be very strong – there’s a reason the term “fur baby” is popular. This feeling is affirmed by California law. California’s Second Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that animals are fundamentally different than other forms of property. This ruling was looking at cases of applying property damage law to injured pets, but it speaks to the legal importance of animals.
Adding your pet to your estate plan
If your pet is a significant member of your family and your life, planning for what happens to them in the event they outlive you and how they are cared for is likely already on your mind.
A pet trust is an option for pet owners. This legally sanctioned arrangement provides for the care and maintenance of your pet. You can assign a trustee, who will hold property “in trust” for the benefit of your pet, and will continue for the life of the pet or 21 years. This helps pet owners plan for the care of pets that have longer life expectances than cats and dogs.
These pet trusts can outline specific directions for how the pet’s needs are to be carried out. You can identify specific food brands, prescribe regular walks or mandate how often the pet needs to visit a veterinarian and which one they should see.
If you are ready to begin planning for the future of your estate and want to ensure your pet and its care are included in your plans, consider speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney who can walk you through the process and how best to guarantee the pet’s well being is maintained in the event you outlive them. It probably won’t be the same as getting scratches behind the ear or belly rubs from you, but it can provide the quality of life you would want for them.