As much as you love your car, your house or your boat, you can't leave an inheritance for them in your will. They are property, and as such, they are ineligible by law to receive an inheritance. You may be surprised to learn that your pets are also property in the eyes of the law. No matter how much a part of your family they may seem, when you die, the law views them in the same category as your car, your house and your boat.
However, there are ways you can provide for your pets through your estate plan. While you can't name your dog or cat as a beneficiary of your estate, you can create an efficient plan that will afford care and protection for your beloved companions.
Establishing a trust
Sadly, the furry friends of many Texas families end up in shelters or worse because their owners made no arrangements for them. Some pet owners thought they were protecting their animals by including them in their wills, but this is not always the best option. Just as your heirs can legally sell or give away an item you bequest to them, leaving your pet to a friend or family member in your will places no legal obligation on them to accept your animal and care for it.
Many pet owners are adding pet trusts to their estate plans. Creating a trust for your pet is a more efficient and complete way to ensure your pet will live out its life in comfort and care. Some of the benefits of a pet trust include these:
- There is no delay in the execution of the terms of the trust as there would be with a will that must go through probate before it becomes effective.
- A pet trust may also go into effect if you become ill or incapacitated whereas a will is only effective after your death.
- You can include specific instructions for the care of your pet, including feeding, veterinary services, grooming and other items.
- The funds placed in the trust are distributed according to your instructions, not in a lump sum as a will requires.
To create a trust for your pet, you will have to determine who is the best fit as your furry friend's caregiver. You will also need to select a trustee, someone who will safeguard the funds and use them based on your instructions. It is important to have conversations with these people to ensure they understand what you are asking of them.
The next step is to calculate the cost of care your pet will need based on its life expectancy, and fund that amount to your trust. Be sure to include instructions and resources for your caregiver regarding the end of your pet's life and the distribution of any leftover trust funds. With a pet trust in place, you can have peace of mind that your companion will receive proper care.