For most people, pets are a part of the family. As with other vulnerable family members, they need to be cared for if something were to happen to their caregiver. It is comforting to assume that other family members or close friends will step up and care for our pets the way that we do, but sometimes that may not be the case. Instead, as with all other aspects of our lives, we have to plan for the care of our pets in the event of disability or death.
Before any planning can be done, pet owners should talk to the people in their lives about who is best able to care for the pet if the owner is no longer able to. Pet owners have to consider the expense of their pets: food, veterinary care, and living arrangements. Pet owners should also consider what specific instructions they would like to give their pet’s caretaker, such as specific type of food or diet, daily routines, grooming, cages, toys, quality of life, and preferred veterinarian. And with these instructions, a pet owner has to consider the best way to compensate the pet’s caregiver for carrying out these instructions.
There are several estate planning techniques that can be used to make sure a pet is properly cared for if something happens to its owner. For instance, Texas has a law allowing a pet trust to be created for the care of a pet, which helps simplify the process. With a pet trust, the owner chooses a trustee and a caregiver. The owner gives the pet, and enough money for its care, to a trustee who then has a duty to make sure the pet is cared for according to the owner’s instructions. The trustee will then deliver the pet to the designated caregiver and make sure the funds set aside for the pet’s care are transferred to the caregiver as needed.
I have many clients who are avid animal lovers and are very concerned about taking care of their pets if something happened to them. I always make sure to ask them about their wishes for the care of their animals as part of their estate plan. As you discuss your estate plan with your attorney, ask them about the best options to care for your pets.