So you’ve made provisions for your pet in your will. Isn’t that enough?
First, to be effective, the will has to be probated. That can take weeks or months. Until then, your pets are in danger. They could end up dumped at a shelter.
Second, the will doesn’t provide immediate funds to care for your pets. It can’t, not until an executor is appointed. What if one of them gets sick? Or even just needs monthly heartworm preventives.
There are three ways to address these issues, in increasing amount of protection: a Pet Care Contract, Durable Limited Power of Attorney for Pet Care, and the Pet Trust.
The Pet Care Contract is pretty useless. Most of them aren’t really contracts per se, for a number of legal reasons. A personal letter to your heirs and other directives attached to your will fall into that category. They’re not legally effective, for the most part.
The Durable Limited Power of Attorney for Pet Care is used to designate someone to make decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. It’s effective until you revoke it or you die. You get to decide under which circumstances it becomes effective and how extensive it is.
A Pet Trust sets aside some assets to care for your pets and nominates a trustee to manage and spend those assets. Usually you’ll be the original trustee. After you die, your nominated successor trustee takes over.
Any complete estate plan should make sure someone is immediately available to make decisions on the health and care of your pets and animals, and should also provide for their long term safety and care. Can’t overemphasize that simply mentioning them in your will is insufficient.
So what if you don’t have a complete estate plan?
Well, in the Download section, you’ve got two choices. If you’re pretty comfortable with legal terminology and forms, you can download what I start with when I’m working with a new client. If you’re not, you can download the same forms and I’ll help you fill them out. So go check it out.