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Your Options Planning for Your Pet’s Care After Your Passing

How do you make sure that your pet is taken care of after you pass? Making provisions in your estate plan is a good idea. This article looks at the options available to you when you need to plan for your pet’s future when you aren’t around.

The law considers pets as the property of their humans. This means that you can’t directly leave money in your will to your faithful animal: property isn’t able to own money. However, you do need to make sure that your pet is taken care of after you pass. An estate plan can help you achieve this aim in different ways, by helping you leave your pet to a person or an organization and providing them with the resources necessary to care for the pet.

You have different options when it comes to estate planning for your pet

Different approaches to estate planning are available to you to help you make sure that your pet is taken care of. You could simply make an informal, nonlegal arrangement with someone you know, you could put together a trust, or you could leave your pet to an organization that works to take care of orphaned animals, and provide them with the resources they need for it. Whatever plan you choose, you need to think ahead and have a frank conversation with whoever will ultimately care for your pet, and make sure that the financial concerns involved are taken care of.

Putting your pet in your will: While you cannot directly leave money or assets to your pet, you can leave your pet and money to a caretaker in your will. Once you leave both to a caretaker, the caretaker owns your pet after your passing, and has full access to the money that you leave them, as well. It is up to them whether they choose to use the money as you intend, or divert it to other uses. In the event that your choice of caretaker isn’t able to perform their duties, you are also able to mention a fallback option.

If you need to put a pet bequest in your will, an attorney who specializes in estate planning would be the right choice of professional to turn to.

Creating a pet trust: In New York, Pet Trusts are governed by NY EPTL §7-8.1. The law states that a Pet Trust may be created for the benefit of a pet and shall terminate upon the pet’s death.

Under New York Law, unlike many other states, a Pet trust is not required to terminate upon the Settlor’s or the creator’s death.  Creating a pet trust can be a more complex effort, and it can be costly, as well. However, a pet trust doesn’t leave you at the mercy of the good nature of your chosen caretaker when it comes to having them perform their duties correctly. Instead, it makes caring for your pet a legal obligation on the part of the caretaker. If they fail, legal action would be possible. In your trust document, you are able to specify how exactly you would like your pet to be cared for, and name someone who is authorized to sue the caretaker if they don’t behave responsibly. A pet trust can be overkill, however, if you completely trust your named caretaker, and don’t believe that they would ever misuse the funds you leave them or be careless with your pet.

Legacy arrangements: If you can’t think of anyone who would take care of your pet after your passing, you still have options. Organizations such as the SPCA, rescue centers and sanctuaries, and veterinary programs, are all capable of taking pets on and caring for them.

Informal arrangements: The simplest way to plan for your pet after your passing would be to simply talk to your executor about whom you want to have care for your pet. This is only likely to work, however, if no one else attempts to claim your pet. If there is any possibility of disagreement, it would be a good idea to either choose a will or a trust.

What happens if you don’t make plans, at all?

If your estate plan includes no arrangements for your pet, your pet would automatically go to the residuary beneficiary: the person who gets whatever is left of your estate after all named beneficiaries in your will receive their share. If there is no will, whatsoever, your property, your money, and your pets, are distributed in accordance with New York law. In general, it’s a good idea to make specific legally enforceable plans for your pet with help from an attorney in estate planning.