In New York, it seems more common for people to have pets than to not have pets. A concern for caring pet owners is what will happen to their pet after the owner dies. Many might not be aware that it is possible to take estate planning steps to address these issues. However, more and more people are including their pets in their estate plans. It can be any kind of a pet and not just a dog or a cat. Birds, snakes, lizards, fish – any pet can be stipulated for care in an estate plan. The important part is knowing how to go about it.

There are ways to ensure the pet is included in the estate plan. A pet trust can be used. This is the same as a normal trust and, in it, it will name a caregiver for the pet. Other information can be included in the document, such as how to properly care for the pet and how funds will be provided to address any needs the pet might have so the person who takes the pet will not be paying out of pocket. A “letter of final wishes” will name a person to care for the pet. This is important even if there is a pet trust, as it will be akin to an insurance policy. It does not need to be a different person from the one named in the trust.

The plan should have a trustee who will oversee the veterinary costs, food, medications, grooming and other necessities for the pet. The caregiver of the pet can also be compensated if the person would like to do so. While people will not entrust their pets to someone they do not believe will care for it, it is always smart to have a backup plan. The trustee can find a person to care for the pet if the original person is unable to do it.

It might sound unusual for people to go as far as taking out a trust to handle their pets as part of their estate plan, but it is growing more popular. Having a qualified estate planning attorney who knows how to handle a variety of desires can ensure that the person will not worry about what happens to their pets after they have died. This does not just apply to pets, but can address other issues as well. Contacting a lawyer can help provide guidance and information about estate planning strategies.

Source: thestreet.com, “Even Your Goldfish Needs an Estate Plan,” Brian O’Connell, March 6, 2018