Including pets in estate planning is not something we Americans take all that seriously, even if we love our pets. And while the consequences of this oversight may not be that drastic in the big picture, there are times when we can see the effects a little more clearly. Like when a hurricane hits a section of the country, causing numerous animals to be without any identifiable owner.
But pets suddenly losing their owners isn’t only a hurricane phenomenon. It happens all the time on a smaller scale. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 100,000 pets enter animal shelters yearly because they lose their guardians. With roughly 62 percent of American households having a pet, this problem is one that a good number of families could face.
The first step one can take in preventing the problem of leaving your pet without a home is to have an animal card and document to identify the animal, its location, special instructions for its care, and the person who can have access to the animal in case the pet’s owner is unavailable. An animal document contains the same information, but includes it with one’s estate planning documents.
One can also include a provision in one’s will for a pet, but something to keep in mind about this is that a will contest or other delay in probate court will delay provisions for the pet. For this reason, it may be best to consider this a backup method.
Finally, one can identify a guardian, provide instructions and allocate financial resources for one’s pet in a pet trust. In these documents, one can leave as much money as one feels is necessary.
One does not need to be a pet fanatic to include a pet in estate planning. Whatever method or methods one uses to care for a pet in the event of separation, the goal is to ensure they are properly cared for and do not go without a home.
Source: USA Today, “Superstorm showed need for estate planning for pets,” Jacoba Urist, November 12, 2012