Nobody has a better pet than you. Nobody has a cuter pet than you, whether it is a big ugly pooch or a small little kitty. It is your pet, your companion, …and, your friend. Unfortunately the law, in most instances, still views this beloved creature as a piece of personal property, not much different than a couch or your car.
Many pet owners are using a Pet Trust to provide for the plans of their pets. However, some owners are uncomfortable with this document and are looking to protect their pets in the old fashioned way- via their wills. If you are in the process of preparing a will for you or you and your spouse, you can undoubtedly include clauses that reference your pets.
If you already have a will, you can add and a codicil (a change or addition to a will) to that document. Generally, there are several different types of clauses that refer to your pet and your estate planning. One term gives your animal to another individual upon your death and asks that the individual treat your pet as their companion animal. You direct that you executor provide a certain amount of money to that individual and request that the funds be used for the care of your pet. You can also set out specific instructions for the attention of your pet. However, the downside of using a will for estate planning for your pets is that because they are still considered an asset or property by the Courts, the clause may not be enforceable.
The Trust and Estate Highlights of the law firm of Williams Mullen suggest that one solution is to leave the money to the individual (caretaker). They point out, however… that the individual has no legal obligation to use the funds on behalf of the pet, so the owner must trust this person unequivocally. Moreover, if too much money is left to the caretaker, relatives and other interested parties may challenge the pet care bequest. Also, pet owners must consider that the caretaker might accept the money but refuse the pet. Using a conditional legacy, this leaves the money contingent on the caretaker taking the pet, guards against this problem. This does not, however, prevent the caretaker from accepting the pet and then disposing of it.
Also, the individual cannot be held accountable for the use of the funds if they decide to spend the money or other things (like a trip to the Bahamas) and remember, you will only become effective upon your death. If there is an emergency regarding your pet, the will is of no use.
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