How to Include the Family Pet in Your Estate Plan

When you think about estate planning, you likely focus on the distribution of assets after your death, ensuring that your wishes are honored, and protecting loved ones. What you may have overlooked is your beloved family pet. Like most people, you probably think of your family pet as exactly that – a member of the family. If so, shouldn’t your pet be included in your estate plan? Toward that end, a Murfreesboro estate planning attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains how to include the family pet in your estate plan.

Why Pet Planning Is So Important

Including pets in estate planning is crucial because, legally, pets are considered personal property. Without explicit instructions within your estate plan, their fate could be uncertain if something happens to you. Planning ahead provides peace of mind that your family pet will receive the care they deserve.

Steps to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plan

  • Identify a Caregiver: The first step is to choose a trustworthy caregiver. This person will be responsible for your pet’s daily needs. Consider their lifestyle, financial stability, and willingness to take on the responsibility. Discuss your plans with the potential caregiver to ensure they are willing and able to care for your pet. 
  1. Create a Pet Trust: A pet trust is a legally enforceable arrangement that allows you to set aside funds for the care of your pets, designate a Trustee responsible for managing those funds, and provide explicit, legally enforceable, instructions for the care of your pet. The Trustee is tasked with ensuring that the funds are used exclusively for the benefit of your pet according to your instructions. The Trustee and caregiver can be the same person; however, it can also be advantageous to appoint a neutral Trustee. Pet trusts can provide peace of mind knowing that your pets will be cared for according to your wishes if you are no longer able to do so yourself because of death or incapacity.
  2. Detail Your Pet’s Care Instructions: Document your pet’s specific needs and preferences. This should include their diet, medical history, exercise routine, and any quirks or habits. Detailed instructions help the caregiver maintain consistency in your pet’s life, reducing stress and ensuring continuity of care.
  3. Allocate Funds: Estimate the costs associated with your pet’s care and allocate sufficient funds. This should cover their expected lifespan, taking into account food, medical expenses, and other care costs. These funds will be used to fund the pet trust you created and will be managed by the Trustee of the trust.
  4. Include Provisions in Your Will: Mentioning your pet and the pet trust you created in your Last Will and Testament is always wise; however, avoid leaving money directly to your pet in the Will because you cannot legally do that, meaning the court would have to appoint an adult to manage that money. 
  5. Communicating Your Plan: Ensure that your family members and close friends are aware of your plans for your pet. This prevents confusion and ensures that everyone involved understands their roles and responsibilities. Clear communication is key to ensuring your pet’s well-being during a transitional period.

Preparing for your pet’s future can be emotionally challenging. Knowing that you have made provisions for their care within your estate plan, however, can provide significant peace of mind. If you have a beloved family pet (or several pets) that you want to protect in the event of your death or incapacity, talk to your estate planning attorney about how to include pet planning in your comprehensive estate plan.

Contact a Murfreesboro Pet Planning Attorney 

If you have additional questions about how to include the family pet in your estate plan, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro pet planning attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.