Estate Planning – Protecting Man or Woman’s Best Friend
What happens if you pass before your beloved pet? You can and should plan for your pet’s future. After all, you tell everyone that you pet is your child and you hold their future so dear to you. This article from the Attorneys at St. Johns Law Group in St. Augustine, Florida, exams ways to help with estate planning tools to provide for your pet.
Estate planning, as a concept, has a couple of basic goals: 1) specifying how your assets will be distributed and to who; and 2) setting forth how you intend for your loved one to be cared for. Under Florida law, your pets are property and you can easily specify where they are to go when you pass. But, to truly accomplish your intent for your pet takes slightly more planning because, again, your pet is not simply property to you, your pet is a member of the family.
Carrying out your intent for your pet may be more complicated that it would first appear. For example, who will take your dogs and cats in and provide for them with the same loving care you have shown them? Who will develop the same kind of close relationship that your animals are used to sharing with you? Your children may not want a cat that insists on sleeping on his head or a child may abhor a dog that sheds all over her chic apartment.
Choosing an appropriate caregiver requires some careful thought and planning. First, you must make certain that whoever is going to care for Buster, Bentley, or Maggie, actually likes them and wants to have the pet around. Sure, a few thousand dollars to provide for Buster’s care over the next 15 years is a huge incentive – big enough to have all kinds of people professing their love and admiration for your furry friend. While your next door neighbor may genuinely care for Callie the cat and all of her progeny into perpetuity, what happens when the kitty litter budget runs out? If you leave Doggy the dog to your cousin along with $10,000 to provide Doggy with the best of everything, what’s to guarantee that your cousin won’t buy himself the best of everything and let Doggy eat cheap kibbles? What if there is simply nobody to leave Callie or Doggy to because you have no children and don’t trust the neighbors?
Pet care businesses are springing up and advertising their facilities as havens for pets with money. It sounds good in print, but what happens when the facility is full, Sparky is getting old and there is still a few thousand left in Sparky’s care account. If Sparky were to depart a little early, there’d be room for another wealthy resident and Sparky’s assets would revert to the care facility.
That’s precisely why, over the past few years, estate planning for pets has taken a whole new twist. Many people don’t consider their cat or dog as property, but as their best friend, not to be subjected to the twisted machinations of those bent on exploitation. Rather than leaving the pets to someone to be cared for from their assets, some pet owners are choosing to leave the assets to their surviving pets, or at least to make certain the pets are cared for throughout their lifetimes through the mechanism of a trust.
In fact, a trust may be the only way of insuring that your pet receives the love and care to which you know he or she is entitled after you are gone, particularly if the trust stipulates that any money left over after the pet dies is inherited by a third party rather than the caregiver. The caregiver then has sufficient incentive to keep the pet in question alive and well as long as possible.
Several states already recognize and enforce pet trusts and others will inevitably follow. If your aim is to make certain your pets are not just cared for, but pampered just as you would pamper them, talk to an attorney at St. Johns Law Group www.staugustineprobateattorney.com about setting up a trust specifically for that purpose.