Pets in the American household have gone far beyond just being furry friends. They are often considered family members in their own right, yet unlike human family members the law grants them no special considerations when it comes to planning your estate. That means that the burden is on you to make sure that your pets are taken care of after you are gone because if you do not, no one else will. That can be a frightening thought for many but just like most aspects of estate planning, proper foresight and follow through can give you sound peace of mind for the future.
While there are special laws governing who takes care of your children if you are incapacitated or deceased, who gets your property if you die without a will and other special situations, pets are absent from laws that govern caring for your family when you cannot. Pets are treated like any other property that you have. If you do not specify someone to inherit them through your will, anyone might end up with them.
Even if you do specify who you want to take care of your pets after you are gone, there are no assurances that the person who now legally owns them will take care of them. Distributions at the time of your death through a will and the probate court simply pass title of the property to the next person and that is all. Therefore the person who now owns your pets may treat them how they like or get rid of them if they want to.
Thankfully in recent years, state legislatures all around the country have passed provisions recognizing the validity of pet trusts. Pet trusts are trusts, either revocable or irrevocable, that are maintained for the benefit of an animal or animals, usually funded at the time of the death of the original pet owner. These trusts typically designate a trustee to oversee the caretaking or appointment of a caretaker for any pets that the original owner had at the time of his or her death.
The terms of a pet trust can be as specific or generic as the creator of the trust wishes. This can specify that the care of the pets continue as they are accustomed to. That can include regular veterinary care, a specific type of diet, how often they should be walked, and what exercise they should receive. Pet trusts are typically funded to the amount necessary to not only provide for the level of care that you want for your pet, but also enough to cover the reasonable life expectancy of the pets.
Pets are great companions at any point during your lifetime and you will want to make sure that they are properly provided for. While many people may know of someone who would be willing to take care of their pets after they pass, many others either do not or will not want to risk their pets being abandoned in the future. If you are looking to protect your pets for the future, you should contact the office of Charles D. Stark in Sonoma County. Contact us online or call today to schedule an appointment at (707) 527-9900.