Estate Planning Considerations for Cat and Dog Owners

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.

Pet Trusts

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.

What Can Go Wrong?

Lack of careful planning and language in your end-of-life plans can lead to bizarre and distressing consequences. For example, a woman stipulated that she wanted to be buried with her dog, a Shih Tzu mix. This meant that the estate’s conflicted executors had no choice but to have the dog euthanized. While it is unfortunately legal to euthanize a perfectly healthy pet, many veterinarians have ethical objections to the practice and refuse to do so. In many states, however, it is in fact illegal to inter a pet with a human in a large cemetery. The will stipulation that led to this dog’s unfortunate death very well did not actually get carried out due to local laws and regulations. An estate planning attorney can ensure your healthy pet is able to live out the rest of their life with loved ones—and ensure your end-of-life wishes are legal, ethical, and above board.

Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney Today

To make sure you have a plan to help your family and loved ones, both people and pets, contact a Houston estate planning attorney. The lawyers at McCulloch Miller, PLLC have helped families make important planning choices for decades and will work hard to consider all of your needs in constructing your future. Contact our office at 713-936-9073 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.

 

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