Don't Forget About Your Furry Kids in Your Estate Plan
If you have kids, chances are your will has some basic trust provisions for them – if both parents are gone, the trust provisions cover the things like healthcare, education, and putting food on the table and roof over their head. Your will also has guardian provisions – who is going to take care of your kids if you’re no longer around.
If you have kids under the age of 18, and you don’t have a will, then drop everything and get this taken care of now. I’m happy to help – just shoot me a message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the ball rolling.
But what about your furry kids? If your family’s relationship with pets is anything like mine, then the fury kid is probably the true first kid in the family. Yep. Katie and I got Cinder a good 4 years before Tripp showed up.
Cinder is as much a part of the family as our 3 kids. All of us know someone (or have had to go through the process) of putting a beloved family pet to sleep. It’s heart-breaking – like losing a member of the family. So why shouldn’t we provide for them in our estate plan?
Unfortunately, the law treats pets like personal property. In other words, the law doesn’t see any difference between Cinder, our dog that’s been with us for 12 years, and my golf clubs. You’ve made sure your human kids are covered. You should probably make sure your fury kids are covered. And mind you – I’m not discriminating against reptiles, birds, or any other pet that doesn’t have fur. In fact, if your family pet falls outside of your standard dog or cat, then it is even more important to take care of the pests in your estate plan.
How do we do it? Well, you have trust provisions for your kids. Why not have trust provisions for your pets? A pet trust. We’ve all heard about the lady who left tens of thousands of dollars to her cat. Same idea – but we’re not actually giving the money to the cat, or dog, or snake, or whatever. We give the money to someone who will take care of the pet; just like we set aside money for someone to take care of our kids.
You shouldn’t take it for granted that someone is going to volunteer to take care of your pet when something happens to you. Pets can get expensive quickly. One estimate shows that the pet care industry could reach almost $100 billion annually by 2020 (https://www.petchecktechnology.com/blog/trends-in-the-pet-industry-for-2017-and-beyond). This should come as no surprise, but there are veterinary specialists just like there are specialists for humans. There are neurologists for dogs; oncologists; therapists who prescribe Prozac type drugs for pets who have anxiety issues.
And here’s the problem with assuming someone will just show up: if no one steps up, then your fury kid is going to the pound / animal control. And if no one adopts them, well…
So here’s what should be included in your estate plan for your pets: designate someone to take care of the pet. Make sure this person is cool with adopting your pet.
Put pet trust provisions in your will. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Set aside a certain amount, and then give the person who will be adopting your pet the authority to use the funds to take care of your fury kid. You know – food, shelter, vet bills, trips to the doggie spa. All the necessities.
We do pet trusts for our clients on a regular basis. If you already have a will, but there’s no pet trust provision in there, we can still update your plan without having to reinvent the wheel. A simple codicil (amendment) to your will solves the problem.
So, to wrap it up – make sure you take care of your fury kids, too. Trust provisions are an easy way to make sure every member of your family is covered when something happens to you.
This is Bobby Sawyer. I am one of the owners of helm and Johannesmeyer & Sawyer. We’d love to help you make sure you have a comprehensive estate plan in place. If you’d like more information on what we do, send me a message on Facebook; email me at email@example.com, or find us on the internet. Helm is our online law firm – www.meethelm.com, and Johannesmeyer & Sawyer is our traditional law firm – www.jandspllc.com.