How Can i protect my pet?

For most people, a pet becomes a member of the family. Many people ask us if their pet should be considered during a person’s overall estate planning process. It is critically important that you ensure that your pet is fully protected throughout the remainder of its life. Of course, it must be noted that the law does not consider a pet a member of the family; the law considers a pet a form of property. Fortunately, there are still estate planning tools available that can help you leave assets specifically for the protection of your pet.  

What You Need to Know About Pets and Your Will

You should not make your pet a beneficiary in your will. Obviously, since your pet cannot actually take possession of any assets, those assets will simply be passed on to another beneficiary. Still, in some cases, you can use your will to provide protection for your pet. For example, if you have full faith and confidence that your sister would be willing and able to care for your pet, you can leave the possession of your pet to her through your will. Additionally, you can also leave her funds to care for the pet. However, if you transfer those funds through your will, you will not retain much control over how the funds are spent. The good news is that you have another estate planning options available. You can establish a pet trust for your animal.

Setting Up a Pet Trust

Many jurisdictions have statutes that allow people to set up a pet trust. For example, you can set up a pet trust in Virginia and in the District of Columbia. A pet trust offers some major advantages over simply handing your pet and some money over to another party through your will. First and foremost, a pet trust goes into effect immediately after you become incapacitated. This is important because sometimes it can take awhile for a will to be executed. Since a pet trust goes into effect right away, your pet would be protected in the event that a protracted legal dispute arises. Additionally, a pet trust allows you to leave money for the care of a pet while also retaining control over those funds. More specifically, you will be able to control how those funds are distributed and used. Finally, a pet trust will last for the remainder of your pet’s life. If there is any money left over at the end, you can choose what will happen to it.