Why Your Estate Plan Needs to Include Your Pets

When designing an estate plan, many individuals forget to include provisions for the care of their beloved pets.  Approximately 63% of all households own at least one pet, yet less than 20% of pet owners included their pets in their estate plan. Quite often, we meet with prospective clients that have never been asked by other attorneys about including pets in their plan.  For many people, their pets are considered important members of the family.  Having the pet end up at a shelter or with an uncertain future is a pet owner’s worst nightmare.

Planning for the care of your pets in the event of disability is equally important as planning for their care when you pass away.  Family members are often primarily concerned about the care of the disabled individual, and the pets needs can be overlooked.  There are several different planning tools that can help ensure your pets receive the care they need if you are no longer able to provide it.

How to Properly Plan for Your Pet

For emergency situations, we recommend carrying a pet alert card in your wallet.  This will alert emergency responders that you have pets at home and provide an emergency contact.  The pet alert card is very important if you live alone.  Maintain a current list of care instructions that is easily accessible so caretakers can properly feed and medicate your pets in your absence.

In a longer term disability situation, you need to ensure your helpers have the ability and the resources to continue providing care for your pets.  Including pet care provisions in your Power of Attorney or your Revocable Living Trust will provide your helpers with instructions and access to funds for the care of your pets.

Many people just assume family members will take their pets when they pass away.  Unfortunately, even if a family member wants to care for the pet he or she may not be able to provide the appropriate care for the pet.  Numerous pets end up at animal shelters after the owner has died.  Frequently these are older pets that are less likely to be adopted.

You can ensure that your pet is cared for in the way you want by leaving instructions in your Will or Revocable Living Trust.  We always recommend naming several backup individuals to care for your pet in the event circumstances change.  For animals with longer life expectancies or more complex care, a pet trust may be needed to make sure their care is managed properly for the duration of their lives.

If you have pets, make sure you work with your estate planning attorney to incorporate your wishes for their care into your estate plan.   Detailed care instructions combined with the appropriate legal documents will ensure that your pets are properly provided for over the remainder of their lives.

For more information about incorporating pet planning in your estate plan, check out this article. To schedule a time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss this important issue, contact InSight Law today.