We've all heard about the pet that received millions of dollars from their owner's estate. Most of us probably were outraged at why our system would actually allow someone to do that. Well, we're not defending any estate distrbution in particular, but let us explain the reasons it might make sense to include provisions for your pet in your estate plan. Here's Why...
In many states the law requires someone accept ownership and care of the pet within a short amount of time or the animal is taken by the pound. Adoption of pets within the specified time is rare, so often those pets are then killed and disposed of. According to many state's laws that process could foreseeably all happen within a period of a couple months after the owner passes on, which wouldn't even be sufficient time for a probate to be resolved. Thus, including designations in your estate plan for who will care for your pet could very well save it's life.
Secondly, there are some people who prefer their pet to their own family members. Honestly, that's not so hard to believe sometimes- at least pets don't talk back, don't waste your money on drugs, and forgive you for things that happened years ago. While it might not be preferable to leave everything you own to your dog or cat, it can make very good sense to leave it to family or friends on the condition that they care for your dog or cat. For instance, pet ownership gives a sense of responsibility and of caring for a life other than your own. It can also be therapeutic for many people to own a pet. Finally, having a loved one's pet around can help a family remember that person longer and think of them more often, while at the same time giving some comfort, after that individual has passed on. So, rather than letting them choose whether they want the pet, you give it to them anyway. It could very well be for their own good.
Finally, it can often make sense to impose conditions on property when you leave it to others. You might be afraid, that the family will try to do something foolish or disagreeable with their inheritance. Or that they might be too hasty in spending it. By including spendthrift provisions or conditions of use for property which are tied to the care and keeping of a pet, those worries can be lightened and possibly even removed altogether. For instance, you could leave your house to Suzie provided that she lives in it and cares for your dog until the pet dies of natural causes, at which time she is free to sell the house. Whether, you included that provision in order to delay the sale of the home so Suzie could get used to living there and possibly keep the family home instead of selling it, or so that your dog would keep a familiar atmosphere during a transition of ownership, it doesn't make much of a difference since both purposes are served.
In other words, pet trust provisions are effective tools to make sure your pet will be ok when you're not around anymore, but also to make sure your family will be ok and will stay on track when they might otherwise have incentives not to. And, if you just love that pet more than anything in the world, pet trusts allow you to leave everything to the dog as well.
If you have a pet and would like to see how pet trust provisions might be incorporated into your estate plan contact us at (801) 477-1570 for a consultation.
"Let Us Earn Your Family's Trust"