LegalJourney Blog

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ensuring Your Pet's Care after You're Gone

How can you protect your beloved pet through estate planning?

Many people, particularly those who live alone, are concerned about what will become of their pets after they pass away. While you cannot leave property to your pet, you can make sure that your pet's needs continue to be met and that your furry, feathered or scaled companion is able to enjoy life even without you present.

Estate Planning Options for Your Pet

In some cases, family members or close friends will commit to caring for your pet without any legal arrangement, but in many cases the pet's owner feels more confident if everything is down in black and white as part of a legal arrangement.

It is, of course, necessary to make sure that the chosen caretaker has the resources to handle your pet's expenses (food, healthcare, grooming, boarding). For this reason, most people who leave their pets to a trusted caretaker, leave that person sufficient funds to cope with the added expense.

Your Will Can Bequeath Your Pet to the Person or Institution of Your Choice

If you are more comfortable with a fully legal arrangement, your choice of pet care provider should be in your will. It is always wise to have a second choice of caretaker in case your first choice cannot accommodate your wishes for some unexpected reason.

You must have complete faith in the beneficiary's good will and reliability for this plan to work. If you fear the person to whom you leave your pet may fritter away your money and neglect your beloved animal, or the institution you have chosen may become overcrowded, this is not the route to follow.

Clearly, you, as the owner must verify that the person or institution named as the pet's new owner has the desire to take on the pet's care and is dedicated to the project. In most cases, the beneficiary who receives the animal should also be left enough money to care for the pet's foreseeable needs during its normal lifespan.

Creating a Trust for Your Pet

Though creating a trust is a more expensive and complicated option, it makes the action more legally binding. If you create a pet trust, you not only leave your pet and your money to the designated party, but you create a legal obligation for the caretaker to fulfill the necessary duties.

If you choose to create a trust, you will also name a person to enforce proper care of the animal, someone who will take the beneficiary to court if your wishes are not carried out. A trust also involves stating how any money to be used for the pet's care should be allocated when the pet dies, and how the pet should be cared for if you are incapacitated before your death and unable to provide pet care.

As with all estate planning matters, it is essential to have a highly qualified estate planning attorney to assist you so that you can be assured that whatever decisions you make will be completely legal and your wishes will be carried out.


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Attorney Karnardo Garnett represents clients with their Estate Planning, Elder Law and Asset Protection needs throughout the Tampa Bay Area, serving all of the bay area, including but not limited to Tampa, Brandon, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Gibsonton, Riverview, Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County, FL



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