What happens to Your Pets When you Pass Away?
In addition to the human members of one’s families, many individuals also have animal members of their family. Because pets are so important to many families, it is often appropriate to make provision in one’s will or trust for one’s pets. While pets cannot take under a testamentary will, a pet owner may still be able to set money aside and account for her pet’s care. An owner may create a pet trust under state law or may grant a person with the authority to care for their pet as a guardian.
You may have heard of celebrities in the news giving large devises to their pets, which may have been upsetting to other beneficiaries (or people who thought they should have been beneficiaries). For example, Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, opting to leave her grandchildren out of her will. When a devise to the pet is considerably large, however, a court may step in. Leona Helmsley’s dog wound up only inheriting $2 million after a court determined $12 million was too high.
However, even for individuals with moderate wealth, pets still need to be accounted for, particularly if the testator lived alone and did not have many close relatives. Who is in charge for caring for the pet? Does the pet take any medication? Does it have any allergies? These considerations lead some to consider planning for the care of their pets. Information about how the pet needs to be taken care of and what needs to be done can be included in one’s estate planning documents. You can also designate who will take care of your pets and how much money is given to them to meet that end. This could also be done in a trust.
If you are careful to provide for the care of your pets during life, you should provide for the care of your pets after your death. To make sure your legacy will be effectuated as intended, proper attention should be paid to the legal instruments creating it, and often it is appropriate to make provision for your pets in your will or trust. The foregoing provides a brief dive into what happens, and what can be planned for after one leaves pets behind.
If you are interested in more information about best effectuating your wishes after you pass, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are experienced, ready, and willing to help. Bart Chepenik, cell 305-613-3548, Brad Trushin, office (305) 981-8889. We are always available to help you.