25 Mar Estate Planning For Your Pets

What Will Happen To My Pet When I Die?

You don’t have an Estate Plan (No Will) or you have a Will but have not specifically provided for your Pet:

Who decides what happens to my Pet? The Probate Judge? Most likely, your horse will be sold and your dogs and cats will be given to anyone who will take them. Worst case, your horse could get sold at auction and shipped to Mexico or Canada and slaughtered for horse meat. A small pet, like a cat or dog, may end up in a shelter.

You have provided for your pet in a Will:

You talk to a friend who agrees to take care of your horse or pet for as long as the horse or pet lives. You agree to set aside enough money in your Will to cover the reasonable and necessary expenses for upkeep of the horse or pet. You write a Will, placing the horse or pet and $50,000 in a testamentary trust, naming your friend as trustee, to care for your horse until it dies. Unfortunately, you die before your horse or pet does. It will take some time for your will to be probated. Meanwhile, your horse or pet needs food, water, and a clean stall. What happens to your horse or pet in the time between your death and probate of your will? When your will actually goes through the probate process, will your wishes regarding care of your horse or pet be enforceable? Will they be honored by the probate court? Maybe. Maybe not.

Providing for a Pet in a Living Trust:

You place your horse or pet and a sum of money to support it in a revocable living trust now, naming the person who will care for your horse or pet after you die and a trustee. You can name yourself as trustee and retain the right during your lifetime to sell the horse or pet or make other decisions regarding it. You can change your mind and revoke the trust at any time. A living trust will avoid probate and provide some continuity after your death. This option can help provide immediate care for your horse or pet.

How Does A Pet Trust Work In Ohio?

A pet trust is created for the continued care and maintenance of a particular animal. The trust must be funded with some amount of money or property, and a trustee must be designated to administer the trust. The amount of funds to care for the animal must be reasonable.  The court has the authority to reduce the amount of caretaking funds to an amount it deems is reasonable for the care of the pet.  When creating such a trust, it is wise to name a person who would be willing and able, if necessary, to step forward to bring a legal action against the trust’s caretaker-trustee, should the caretaker-trustee fail to honor the trust.

Things To Consider When Creating A Pet Trust:

  • Select a trustee to administer the trust.
  • Select a caregiver.
  • Prevent fraud by protecting your pet’s identity.
  • Put pet care instructions, such as food preferences and exercise routine, in writing.
  • Address veterinary and/or farrier care needs.
  • Properly fund the trust.
  • Name secondary beneficiaries.
  • State how the animal should be treated after its death (e.g, burial, cremation, etc.).

This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and is not to be construed as legal advice.

For more information on these and other estate planning principles, please contact us.