Planning for Your Pet is Important
More than 60 percent of American households have a pet. After Hurricane Katrina, 61 percent of pet owners told national pollsters they would refuse to evacuate ahead of a disaster if they could not take their pets. That shows that pets are not merely property, but important family members. More and more pet owners do not want to leave the care of their pets to chance and want to make provisions for the care of their pets in their wills.
Basically there are two ways to provide for the continuing care of your animals in a will or trust. The first is an outright disposition of an animal and funds for the animal’s care to a family member, friend or charity, and the second is the creation of a pet trust for the animal, either in a will or in a separate trust document. The pet trust offers more protection for the animal.
You may be surprised to learn that 46 states and the District of Columbia now have specific statutes authorizing the creation of a pet trust for the care of animals. The last time I checked, only Louisiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Mississippi did not have pet trust statutes. The law has changed rapidly in this area. At the time of publication of my article in the New York Law Journal entitled “Remember the Family Pet in Estate Planning,” only 20 states had pet trust statutes.
Pets have ended up on the street or being euthanized at shelters after their owners have died, so a plan for their care is important. Many of my clients come to me saying that they were dissatisfied because their former attorneys did not adequately address the issue of estate planning for the care of their animals. This needs to change and planning for the care of companion animals should become a standard part of the estate planning process. So if you go to an attorney to have estate planning, even if you just want a simple will, you should demand that your attorney make provisions for the care your companion animals as part of your estate plan.