Did you know that our pets grieve? If you’re like us, anytime we lose one of our family members who just so happens to not be of the human species, we grieve hard. As loyal as they are to us, it’s of little surprise that they too could have the shared capacity for grief. A new study reveals that the grief pets feel may be different, of varying depths and often quite obvious. More of us are concerned about what happens to them after we’re gone and fortunately, there are a few ways to protect these loyal little souls.
Estate Planning and Your Pet
As far as the law is concerned, pets are classified as property; of course, most of us would argue that point. It’s difficult to consider our little guy who makes us laugh, listens without interrupting and is more loyal than most humans as “property”. In this instance, though, this type of classification just might be what best protects them. It can make a big difference in their quality of life after you’ve passed. While awareness grows on a daily basis, many pet owners still don’t know that they can make provisions for their pets in their estate plans. Remember, though, if you’ve not provided for your pet in a legally enforceable manner, there are no guarantees.
Wills and Pets: Not Always Compatible
There are a few ways to cover the care of your pet. A pet trust allows you to name someone to distribute funds for the care of your pets – checkups at the vet, food, etc. This is an affordable process that’s simple, straightforward and included as part of your estate plan. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve addressed everything in a traditional will. That’s not always a sure-fire solution, mostly because a will’s purpose is to distribute property. Period. It was designed to be a straightforward document that memorializes your material possessions and your wishes for who receives them. There’s not much room for conditional bequeaths: “John can have my car if he has the oil changed every 3000 miles”. Not only that, but a will traditionally isn’t read until an appropriate grieving period has passed. Most estate planning lawyers will tell you the reading of the will doesn’t come until a week or longer after the funeral or memorial service. That leaves a lot of time for a pet to be at the mercy of your other grieving family members who may not have realized there’s no food or water in his dish.
A Trust for Your Pet
A pet trust gives you room for specifics. You create the pet trust during your lifetime, which means it’s valid while you’re still living. Because human nature is, well, human nature, a pet trust ensures no human family member will attempt to bypass or dispute any funds you’ve set aside for Baxter to claim as their own. Your wishes are cemented into that legal document. Another reason pet trusts are so attractive is that you are provided the opportunity, if you wish, to establish an investment trustee. You can set aside monies for charities or even animal research. A trust protector can be named to follow through on those types of options. You can make concessions for any kind of incapacity planning, too. Say, if you had to go into a nursing home, your pet trust can ensure you and Baxter (or Fluffy or Spike) can remain together. And before you think there’s not a nursing home in the world that would allow for pets, think again. With so many new studies showing the powerful benefits of pets that are allowed in nursing homes, many have provided accommodations for residents and their pets. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a long, expensive and time consuming process. A trust can be compiled easily with the assistance of your estate planning lawyer. Be sure to speak with him about what options might be available to ensure the safety and well being of your pet after you’re gone. Our animals love us and they indeed grieve their losses as much as the other members of our family.