What Happens to Your Pets After You Pass Away?

What Happens to Your Pets After You Pass Away?

Whether you have a dog, a cat, a bird or even a rare animal, pets play a significant role in the lives of many individuals and families. Because of this, it is important to know: What will happen to your pet in the event that you pass away? How will your pet be properly cared for?

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Understanding Pet Trusts

If you want to ensure that your pet is taken care of after you pass away, the best way to do so is by setting up a pet trust. A pet trust is a legal document that will delegate a person of your choosing to care for your pet following your death. A pet trust will also provide specific instructions for your pet’s care, as well as money to handle your pet’s living and medical expenses.

Unlike a will or living trust, with a pet trust, the trustee who you choose will need to follow all of your care instructions and only use the money in the pet trust for the living and medical expenses of the pet.

Naming a New Owner in Your Will

As implied above, another option is to include your pet and money for their care in your will. If you choose to do so, the person you select will become the new owner of your pet. However, unlike with a pet trust, the new owner is not legally obligated to care for your pet in the specific manner that you would like. This is why it is of high importance to choose an individual that you know will care for your pet.

What You Should Think About Regarding Your Pet’s Care After You Pass Away

Before setting up a pet trust, it is important to keep in mind what you should include. Typically, the following information will be included in a pet trust:

  • Name of the pet’s new guardian
  • Identification of the pet
  • Specific instructions on how you would like the pet to be cared for
  • Who is responsible for making sure the trust is carried out
  • An alternate guardian should your selected guardian become no longer able to care for the pet
  • How much money is being provided for the pet’s care
  • What should happen to that money if the pet passes away and there are leftover funds

What Happens if You Do Not Have a Plan for Your Pet After You Pass Away?

Much like any other part of an estate plan, keeping any pets you have in mind during the estate planning process is critical. If you do not have a plan in place for someone to take care of your pet following your death, that decision then often gets made by the court, local law enforcement, or animal control.

What if You Do Not Have Anyone to Rely On for Your Pet’s Care?

If you do not have a reliable person to care for your pet after you pass away, veterinary schools, animal rescue organizations and the SPCA may be able to assist. It is important to leave your beloved pet with someone that you can trust will take care of them. If not, an unreliable person may not give your pet the proper care they need.

What is the Difference Between Leaving Your Pet in a Will or Creating a Pet Trust?

While leaving your pet to a reliable person in a will is a good idea, there is a big difference between doing that and setting up a pet trust. If you leave your pet in a will, the funds that you provide for their care do not legally have to go toward the pet’s care. The money will be given to the person you select to care for your pet and it will be up to that person to decide what to do with that money. However, with a pet trust, the money is given to a trustee who will in turn provide funds to the pet’s new guardian exclusively for the care of the pet.

Pet Trusts: How We Can Help You

Pets are an integral part of a person’s life. Creating a pet trust is a great way to ensure that your pet receives the proper love and care that they will need in the event of your death. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your needs. For more information regarding various estate planning matters, check out our informative webinar series here.

About the Author

Alyssa Marie Monteleon, Esq.

Alyssa Marie Monteleon is an elder law and estate planning attorney at the Monteleon Law Group, PLLC with offices in New York and Virginia. For more information, please visit www.monteleonlaw.com or call (914) 840-2529.

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