Individuals thinking about estate planning may already be considering their spouses, children, and even important charities and foundations that are meaningful to them. It is important for planners to also consider implementing estate plans for their beloved cats and dogs. While you cannot leave money to your pet in your will, there are other tools to ensure your pets are cared for in your absence.
Choosing a Caretaker
In many cases, it may be clear and undisputed who your pet’s caretaker may be. You may think just telling your executor who will care for your cat or dog will be enough. But in the unfortunate event a dispute arises or your caretaker can no longer accept the responsibility, a formal arrangement in your will can ensure your pet is properly cared for. If you do not have a trusted loved one, many arrangements exist that will ensure your pet has a safe caretaker, such as SPCA programs, private pet sanctuaries, and veterinary school programs.
Some estates will leave a sum of money to their chosen caretaker to cover expenses related to animal care. Others, however, may choose to create a pet trust. Pet trusts are recognized in every state, including Texas, as legal estate planning instruments. Similar to other types of trusts, the trust creator places funds or assets into the trust for the benefit of the pet. The pet owner will name a trustee and even a successor trustee charged with managing these funds. Acceptable uses include veterinary and medical costs, food and care expenses, grooming needs, and even end of life plans for the pet, such as burial or cremation. Individuals creating pet trusts should clearly describe and identify their pet in the trust to avoid potential abuse.