Estate plans have expanded through the years and it is not uncommon for people to provide for their pets when drafting a will. To many, pets are a source of comfort and love. In fact, more than two-thirds of pet owners consider their animals to be members of their families, so creating a pet trust is quite common. According to New York State laws, pets are considered “property” so leaving instructions on how to care for them, does not guarantee your pet’s comfort and well-being should you pass away.
We recently had a client who was worried about providing for his pets who would likely outlive him. The pets were not traditional domestic pets which complicated matters when trying to find them a prospective home. He appointed a Trustee who will be paid an annual salary to ensure that the terms of the trust are carried out. Additionally, the pet trust will be funded with $125,000—however, New York State law allows the court to reduce the value of the trust.
What can you do to ensure your pet is taken care of properly?
- Make advance arrangements to protect the pet during the period between death and the admission of the will to probate and death.
- Consider what happens if you should be hospitalized or incapacitated and make the necessary arrangements for the care of your pet during that time.
- Provide funds for your pet’s care. All 50 states prohibit someone from naming their pet as an estate beneficiary. They may leave a sum of money to the person designated to care for the pet either outright or in a trust. As you can imagine, it is very important to choose someone you trust if you are doing this.
- Designating a caretaker well in advance. This is typically a friend or family member who will accept the responsibility of taking care of your pet. You will want your pet(s) to have a good home with someone who will make sure your wishes are taken into consideration
- Have your executor select among a group of potential caretakers. You should trust the executor to make the decision based on knowing what is important to you. In this case, both the executor and the potential caretakers should all be notified in advance.
In New York State, pet owners can make a “conditional bequest” in which both the pet and a sum of money are left to the beneficiary who must use the money for the care of the animal. “The client we mentioned above was paying his “Executor” a monthly fee to help to ensure that his wishes are carried out. If you cannot find someone to carry out your wishes, another option is to contact a shelter or charitable organization that cares for pets. It is recommended that you do a little research into their reputation and processes.
There is a lot to consider when planning for the care of your pet after you pass. In addition to the above, there are more options and short-term solutions. Should you have questions or would like to set up a consultation to discuss adding your pet to your will, please contact our office at 845-298-2000.
About SDG Law
SDG Law helps clients to protect their assets from the obstacles that face us as we age, whether it be taxes, long term care expenses, family disagreement, a property related issue or special needs. We assist clients throughout the Hudson Valley as well as in Florida. Our firm offers a full range of elder law and estate planning options that will make sure you are covered in the event of an emergency medical concern.