Using Estate Planning to Ensure That Your Pet Is Safe While You Are Alive
We’ve previously discussed your ability to make provisions for your pet in your will, but how do you specifically do that? What if you become incapacitated and can no longer care for them while you are alive? As estate planning attorneys here in Florida, we regularly encounter questions from clients concerning how to best provide for their pets through estate planning, and whether an attorney could help them do so.
In fact, it is especially important to make these plans given that the law still treats pets as property, which means that, if you become incapacitated and a judge appoints a guardian to care for you, it is entirely possible that that person may make the decision to give the pet away or abandon them at a shelter for one reason or another, for example, if they feel that your estate cannot afford the pet, etc. In this type of circumstance, having a will in place will not help to protect your pet and what you envision for them because it only takes effect upon death.
The Durable Power of Attorney Option
One option you can pursue to help ensure that plans are made for your pet is to ensure that you have a specific designated individual to govern your finances – including what is necessary to care for your pet – without any court involvement. You can do this by preparing a durable power of attorney document that includes that designation. That being said, know that these documents do not go into detail as to how exactly you want everything managed; meaning that ensuring that your pet is cared for as you wish would all come down to trust for this person, as you still would not exercise control over that pet’s fate.
The Revocable Trust Option
We tend to advise clients to, instead, pursue a revocable living trust because it allows you to very specifically describe how you would like your pet to be cared for; both while you are alive and after you pass. This also involves designating a trustee to carry out these wishes.
Some examples of specifications that you might include are ensuring that your pet remains with you if you become incapacitated, how much should be spent on food, veterinary care, etc. Your trust can also designate a caretaker (paid or unpaid), ensure that, if you are living in a nursing home that does not allow pets that you have regular visits with your pet, etc. And if you have concerns that you won’t be able to keep your pet if you become incapacitated and a shelter is the only option, you can specific that they can only be taken to a no-kill shelter. Note that if you already have an existing revocable trust, you can also alter it to incorporate your pet.
The Standalone Pet Trust Option
Finally, another option is to create a living trust for your pet, which provides all of the funds in the trust for the pet and related expenses such as pay for the pet’s caretaker.
Contact an Experienced Pet Trust Attorney Here in Florida
When it comes to any estate planning decisions, you want to make sure that you work with an estate planning attorney who you are comfortable with and who has experience with these kinds of issues. Contact our Orlando estate planning attorneys at the office of Gierach and Gierach, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and find out more about our services.