You would never forget any of your immediate family members when you are planning your estate, would you? A hundred percent of people would say no, but many of them would actually be mistaken.
Over 65% of all households in the United States have a pet of some kind, and there are about 68 million dogs and almost 97 million cats. Most people never think about the estate planning implications for a couple of different reasons.
First, since most pets are owned by families, there would be someone else to step up if it ever becomes necessary. Short of this, many single pet owners have family members and friends that would find a home for an orphaned pet.
The other underlying reason why people don’t consider pet planning is because humans live much longer than pets. All of this makes total sense, but the subject is quite relevant for a particular segment of the population.
Many senior citizens lose their spouses, friends, and family members that are around their own age. They no longer work, so they do not interact with their colleagues on a regular basis, and they may have infrequent contact with their families that are living busy lives.
Loneliness can set in, and this can lead to depression, which is a serious mental health condition. Even if a person is not clinically depressed, they can just experience a rather empty existence that is not very satisfying.
Under these circumstances, pet ownership can be the ideal solution. From a mental health perspective, a senior pet owner will have a new sense of purpose. Pets provide companionship, love, and entertainment, and dogs always let the owners know when someone approaches the house.
Dogs need walks, so a senior dog owner will have a reason to get regular exercise. While they are out and about with a conversation piece in tow, they will invariably talk to others, and this will enrich their lives.
The benefits of pet ownership are considerable, but there will naturally be longevity concerns. What happens to a pet if a senior owner passes away first?
People sometimes wonder if it is possible to leave money and/or property to a pet in a will. The answer is no, because animals cannot own property. You could leave any type of property to a person that agrees to be a caretaker, but that individual would own the property.
Obviously, that is not a very wise choice. Fortunately, a solution exists in the form of a pet trust, and they are now legal in all 50 states.
To execute this strategy, you would fund the trust and name a trustee to act as the administrator after you are gone. The trustee could be the person that is actually going to care for the pet, but this is not required.
You could name someone you know personally to act as the trustee, but there is another option. There are professional fiduciaries that will assume these duties for a fee, so there is recourse if you have the necessary resources.
In the trust declaration, you record instructions with regard to the way you want the pet to be cared for if you predecease the animal. You can be specific, and the trustee would have a fiduciary duty to follow your instructions to the letter.
When you establish the trust, you name a successor beneficiary. After the death of pet, this individual would inherit the resources that remain in the trust.
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As you can see after reading this post, there is an estate planning solution that is ideal for any situation. Your estate plan should be custom crafted to ideally suit your needs, and we provide personalized attention to each and every one of our clients.
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