During 2012, nearly 70 percent of U.S. households had a pet. The most commonly owned and beloved pets are cats and dogs and an increasing number of pet owners are taking steps to ensure and provide for their pet’s future wellbeing. We’ve likely all witnessed pet owners who treat their pets much like a family member or child. For some pet owners; trips to the groomer, daycare provider or pet psychologist are routine and considered necessary.
Given the amount of time and assets Americans spend on their pets, it’s no surprise that a growing number of pet owners are taking estate planning steps to provide for a pet in a will or trust. A 2012 study by the American Pet Products Association showed that nine percent of dog and cat owners named a pet in a will or had established a pet trust.
A total of 46 states currently allow a pet owner to name a pet in a will or set up a pet trust to provide for a pet’s future care. While a pet owner may consider Fido or Fluffy a member of the family, in estate planning pets are regarded and treated as property. Because of this, a pet owner is not allowed to directly will assets to a pet. While money can be left in a will to a designated pet caretaker, that individual is under no legal obligation to keep the pet or use the assets to care for or provide for the pet.
A pet trust, therefore, is an attractive option for those pet owners wishing to provide for a pet’s future care and financial needs. When setting up an estate plan, those pet owners who wish to provide for a pet from the grave would be wise to discuss their wishes with an attorney who can ensure a will or pet trust accomplishes a pet owner’s goals.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills,” Anne Tegesen, Jan. 12, 2014