Not that long ago, arrangements for pets were not even considered when creating an estate plan. Nowadays, however, a high percentage of wills and trusts include provisions for the continual care of animals.
While the specific estate planning method you choose will rely heavily on certain factors such as your state’s laws, your financial resources, and your pet’s needs, there are a variety of options to ensure your pets are taken care of in the event you are unable to do so.
Bequest in a Will
Pets cannot own property, and in fact are considered “personal property” in Georgia. Therefore, you cannot give property to your pet when you die, but you can leave your pet to someone else to take care of. Before doing so, however, make sure that person is willing and able to take care of your pet. Most people also include money in the bequest, so as not to financially burden your trusted caretaker.
Although a simple bequest in your Will sounds easy, this option may not be the best approach for a couple of reasons. First, your Will must be probated before it goes into effect, which could take several months or even years. Second, any money gifted with the pet does not have to be spent on the pet. Therefore, using a Will to ensure your pet is cared for may not be the most effective approach.
A pet trust is a legal arrangement created for providing care and maintenance after death or incapacity. Unlike a Will, a Trust becomes effective immediately, and in Georgia, the Trust terminates when the last surviving animal dies.
One of the most critical consideration when creating a Pet Trust is choosing a caretaker. This is the person who will have custody of your pet and will be responsible for its care, so choose wisely and make sure this person is willing to care for your pet.
Another essential concern is how much to leave for the animal’s care. It is important to consider your pet’s age, relative health, and anticipated lifespan when budgeting for his/her care.
If you are unable to find a person willing and able to take care of your pet after you die, consider some national programs that allow you to leave your pet with a trustworthy caretaker, such as SPCA, veterinary schools, and private animal sanctuaries and rescue organizations.
Contributing source: Thompson Legacy Law