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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Planning for the Care of Your Pets After You Are Gone

During 2020, many families made the decision to get a new pet.  Many saw the opportunity because they were home to train and take care of the pet.  Pets become members of the family, so it is important to consider how to provide for them in your estate plan just as you would the human family members. 

While we may think of pets as part of our family, the law considers them to be property. This means that you cannot leave anything in your will directly to a pet. The following are some steps to take to make sure your pet is protected: 

  • Caretaker. Pick one or two people who can act as your pet’s caretaker should anything happen to you. Make sure they are willing and able to assume the responsibility. Write out care instructions for them and let them know how to access your house. If you don’t have anyone who can take care of the pet, there are organizations that will perform this service, although they vary in quality, so be sure to check out the organizations before choosing one. 
  • Will. You can use your will to leave a pet to a caretaker along with money to care for the animal. Be aware, however, that the caretaker does not have a legal obligation to use the money on the pet. Once the caretaker has possession of the pet, he or she does not have to keep the pet or care for it in any particular manner. As long as you trust the person you are leaving the pet with, this shouldn’t be a problem. 
  • Trust. The most secure way to provide for a pet is to set up a pet trust, in which you name a trustee to ensure the pet is cared for. The trustee is obligated to make payments on a regular basis to your pet's caregiver and pays for your pet's needs as they come up. The trust should include the names of the trustee and caretaker, detailed care instructions, and the amount of money necessary to care for the pet. 
The attorneys at Severns & Howard, P.C. are able to assist you with updating or preparing a Last Will and Testament or a Trust that will help protect and care for your beloved pet after your passing.  Meeting with one of our attorneys to plan for your future needs and that of the care of your pet can alleviate stress and worry about what will happen to them after you are gone.  To schedule an appointment with a Severns & Howard attorney, please contact our office at (317) 817-0300 to begin the intake process.

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