Pam Miller, founder of a no-kill cat shelter and adoption agency, encourages pet owners to include family pets in their estate planning process. As part of her daily routine, Miller brought two cats to her shelter just days before their owner passed away so that they could find new homes, as described in The (Raleigh, NC) News Observer, "Providing for your pets after you're gone."
Caring for and finding new homes for the pets of the recently departed is something SAFE Haven does frequently, but there must be a plan and funds set aside. It takes planning and resources. Many folks make assurances that their pets will be cared for after their owners pass. After a loved one's death, with so many things to do, it's easy to forget about the pets.
Put a card in your wallet detailing how many pets you have and their location. It should include the contact information for your pet’s veterinarian, their favorite pet sitter, and a trusted friend to whom you've spoken about caring for your pets if something unfortunate occurs. If you want to do this and leave a trust for your pets, speak with an estate planning attorney.
Pets can't legally inherit money, but with a pet trust, the money is set aside for the care of the pet. After the pet dies, the remainder can be designated for a nonprofit.
Finding the right attorney means choosing an estate planning attorney who knows how to include pets in an estate plan and has experience doing so.
Here are some pointers for setting up a trust:
- Talk to an estate planning attorney who specializes in pet trusts, and make sure they are allowed in your state.
- Have your trust cover all pets in your lifetime, instead of separate trusts for each pet.
- Be detailed about the type of care you want for your pet, such as requiring that the new caregiver provide regular veterinary care.
- Figure out the amount of money needed to cover your pet's needs and the amount of money needed to administer the trust.
- Choose a beneficiary for any funds not used by the pet trust, like a pet charity.
Reference: The (Raleigh, NC) News Observer (October 12, 2015) "Providing for your pets after you're gone"