You Can Treat Your Pets Like Your Children In General, But Not In Your Will

Woman holding dog

It is so easy to love your pets when they work so hard for your affection and come with much less drama and attitude than humans. After loving and caring for your faithful four-legged companions during your life it is only natural to want to provide for their care and welfare after your death. This article is about doing so in the way that is most likely to accomplish your intent.

You may have read the sensational stories of pets receiving outlandish inheritances in the news, such as Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble, receiving millions of dollars or a stray cat in Rome receiving $13 Million. These cases are the exception rather than the rule, and they should not form the legal basis for your planning for your pets after your death. In this realm it would be a good rule of thumb to draft your will or trust in a manner to keep it out of the news, if possible, and here’s how you do it:

The most important thing to remember when planning for your pets after your death is that your pets are legally considered property and you cannot leave money directly to your pets. Whether your estate plan includes a will or a trust you will need to designate a human recipient for the money intended for your pets along with the instructions on how the money is to be used.

It is also good to keep in mind that others may view the care of your pet as an unwelcome burden; a thorough estate plan will provide for alternate caregivers in event that the pet does not make a good fit for the intended caregiver’s lifestyle or financial situation. This issue can be mitigated by directing money to use for pet care and also for compensation for the caregiver. Your intended caregiver may be more willing to take on the responsibilities of caring for your pet if you can provide financial support for the effort.

Finally, you will want to make the bequest reasonable in relation to the cost of pet care and the total size of your estate. Trouble’s, inheritance was reduced from $12 Million to $2 Million by the courts upon a successful challenge by two of Leona Helmsley’s grandchildren who had been disinherited. Don’t give your other heirs a reason to challenge the bequest for your pets; if you make the distributions disproportionate then be sure to provide enough monies to defend the coming litigation as well.

Gifts for pets require planning and proper execution to be effective after you pass away. Whether you intend to provide for your own pets or make gifts to pet-focused charities, it is important to obtain the help of a compassionate estate planning attorney at Nielsen Law Group for help. You can schedule your initial consultation by calling (480) 888-7111 or submitting a web request here.

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