Providing for Your Pet After You Pass Away
For many of us, pets are valued members of our family. Although we may not leave them money for life after we die, there are effective options to make sure our pets are provided for and loved.
Here are three main options for quality pet care after you pass away:
- Leaving your pet with someone in your will or living trust
- Creating a trust for your pet that appoints someone as their next caretaker
- Finding a home for your pet through a charitable organization
Any of the three may provide a good life for your furry friend. An experienced estate planning attorney like Clifford M. Cohen can help guide you about including pets in your estate plan in Washington, DC and Maryland.
Using a Will or Living Trust to Give Your Pet a New Owner
Creating a will or living trust allows you to name a new owner for your pet in your estate plan. This is the simplest method to ensure your pet’s well-being. You may leave your pet — and money to care for it — to someone you trust through a provision in your will or living trust
What is the difference between a will and living trust?
Wills and trusts are essential for ensuring your wishes are fulfilled after you pass away. A will takes effect after you die. A living trust takes effect as soon as you create it.
A will is essentially a list of your final wishes. Your will includes the disposition of your property, which may include your pet. In a will, a legal representative called an executor is appointed to carry out your wishes, such as taking care of your pet.
In a living trust, you may distribute property before you die, at the time of death or after death. In a trust, one person (the trustee) holds legal title to the property for another person (the beneficiary). Usually, there are two beneficiaries — one who receives income from the trust during his or her lifetime, and one who receives what is left after the first beneficiary passes away.
In a living trust with provisions for a pet, the new beneficiary becomes your pet’s owner and receives your funds without any legal obligation to care for your pet or use your funds for its care. This is a good option when you have people you trust.
Creating a Pet Trust for After-Death Pet Care
Pet owners may also create pet trusts. A pet trust creates a legal obligation for the beneficiary to care for your pet. In the trust document, you may name a person to care for your pet and provide instructions on how to do so. You can also leave funds for your companion’s long-term care.
When you pass away, the trustee receives the funds and your pet. He or she must follow your instructions for your pet’s care and use the money for your pet’s benefit.
Leaving Your Pet With a Charitable Organization
Another option for people who may not have close family or friends willing to or capable of caring for their animals is to leave them with a charitable organization that will ensure their well-being after you pass away. Some organizations find pets loving homes after owners can no longer provide for them. Others may take care of your pet for the rest of its life for a substantial donation. Programs that offer these services include:
- Peace of Mind, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University
- Perpetual Pet Care Program, Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine
- Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
Craft Your Estate Planning with The Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen
At the Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen, we serve residents of Washington, DC and Maryland who seek estate planning counsel. If you or a loved one wants to create an estate plan that provides for your pet’s well-being, discuss your goals with our estate planning lawyers. Call (202) 845-7036 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.