I read an interesting article on the Humane Society’s website the other day regarding what happens to pets when their owner dies. The most poignant concept I walked away with was that an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 pets are brought to shelters each year after their owner dies. I was astounded by the magnitude of this number.
As an estate planning attorney, I often have the conversation with clients about who will care for their pet(s) when the client dies. In most cases, clients have not thought about this concept. Most assume they will outlive their pet(s) or “someone” will take them. As seen by the statistic I read, this is not what always happens.
Our office recommends several steps be taken to keep your pet(s) from ending up in a shelter. First, determine who you would want to care for your pet. Take into consideration the lifestyle your pet is used to. If you have an active dog, be sure to pair him or her with an active person, or someone willing to take the time to properly play and exercise your dog. Talk to this potential caregiver to see if they would be willing and able to care for your pet(s). You may also want to list a backup caregiver in the event your primary choice is no longer willing or able to care for your pet(s) when you die.
The second step is to include your wishes in your estate plan. Clearly state who is to become your pet(s)’s caregiver. Clearly identify if you are providing the caregiver with a stipend, and the amount of the stipend, to help offset the cost of becoming the caregiver. Being a pet owner has additional costs associated with it – there is the cost of food, grooming, vaccinations, doctor visits, etc. Because these costs can add up, it is sometimes a deterrent for potential caregivers from taking on additional pets when someone dies. Be realistic in the amount of funds you set aside for the care of your pet(s). If the amount is too high, a court may set aside what you request and modify the amount (case in point is Leona Helmsley). The final step is to review these decisions on a regular basis and ensure your choices still match your situation as time changes.
For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact our office today at 888.222.1328.
Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.