As a pet is often considered a part of the family, it is imperative to remember to include it in an estate plan. An Oklahoma law enacted in 2010 allows for people to create a trust that will provide care for a domestic animal. Currently, 46 states have such laws in place, giving animal owners peace of mind that their furry friends will be cared for upon the owner’s death.
The American Bar Association points out that a pet trust can accomplish a number of goals, such as the following:
- It controls how money will be spent for the animal’s care.
- It can provide instructions regarding what to do with the animal should the owner become incapacitated.
- It can protect against litigation, such as someone contesting the amount of money left for the pet’s care.
As the ABA notes, creating a trust is often preferable than simply outlining instructions in a will. For example, notes in a will are not necessarily enforceable and do not take effect immediately the way that a trust does. If a caretaker designated by a trust fails to properly care for an animal, he or she could face legal repercussions. Further, a will cannot address what should happen if the animal’s owner is incapacitated.
People who want to ensure pets are cared for through estate planning should remember to name a caretaker and designate an amount of money that will be left for the animal’s care. Detailed instructions regarding the animal’s routine or needs will be helpful. Lastly, when creating a trust, the pet owner should name someone who can enforce the trust in court when necessary.