Pets are a part of the family, but unlike your children or spouse, they cannot legally inherit property or assets. This can be a concern for any animal lover who wants their pet cared for in the event that they pass away. The good news is that there are ways to provide for your furry family members in your estate plan. Here are some insights from a leading estate planning attorney in NJ.
What Pet-Friendly Estate Planning Options Are Available?
Because pets legally cannot inherit, you can’t simply write your pet into your estate plan or Last Will and Testament the way you would with a person. If you do this, those assets will simply be removed and included in your residuary estate and dealt with as if it was left out of the will, likely going to your spouse or nearest human dependents. However, this doesn’t mean that a will is useless in this instance; it can still be used to provide for your pet if it is correctly and legally-worded. You can choose to do the following:
- Leave your pet to a loved one of your choice as you would with any other asset, or
- Leave your pet to a loved one of your choice along with an amount of money to be used to pay for your pet’s expenses.
The second option is often the best one, as many people may not be able to take on a pet even if they love them, due to financial constraints. However, it’s important to note that even if you say this money should be used to care for that pet, there is nothing legally preventing the beneficiary from spending the money on anything they want. They can also then give up the pet with no legal consequences.
A third and more secure option is to create a pet trust. This is a stronger but more expensive legal tool that works in much the same way as other trusts. You can set down all the details of the food, treatment, and care of your pet, and have an independent trustee to ensure these wishes are carried out, making sure that the money is spent properly and the pet is cared for.
This also allows you to make additional provisions, for example, where any left over money should go once the pet passes, or who should care for the pet in the event that the original caretaker passes away or is unable to fulfill the requirements of the trust.
Include Your Furry Family Member in Your Estate Plan – Speak to Your Estate Planning Attorney in New Jersey
Frank R. Campisano is an experienced estate planning attorney with a long history of service and loyalty to his New Jersey clients. In addition to assisting you with creating, storing or updating your Last Will and Testament, he can assist you with developing trusts to care for your pets, healthcare proxies, Power of Attorney documentation, and much more.