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Does Your Estate Plan Include Your Pets?

Did you know that National Pet Day is celebrated on April 11th of this year? What a perfect reminder to consider your pet or pets when creating an estate plan. If not, you should, according to The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization. Pets usually have shorter life spans than humans, but people don’t always include their pets in their estate plans. If a pet owner doesn’t make plans for his or her pet, the animal can be left homeless and end up in an animal shelter.

To help pet owners ensure that that their wishes for their pets’ long-term care won’t be forgotten, misconstrued or ignored, The Humane Society has created a printable fact sheet, “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You.”  The five-page fact sheet, provides sample legal language for including pets in wills and trusts, plus suggestions on protecting pets through a power of attorney.

A Pet Trust is a written agreement providing for the care and maintenance of a companion animal in the event of the owner’s disability or death. Things to consider when planning for your furry friends are:

  • Do any of your pets have unique care requirements (i.e., health concerns, unusual behaviors, etc.) that require special planning?
  • Where do you want your pets to live — at your home, with a friend or loved one, or at a sanctuary?
  • What financial resources will you provide to ensure your pets are adequately provided for?
  • Who will be responsible for providing daily care?
  • Who will be responsible for the oversight and administration of the assets left for the benefit of your pets?

No two pet owners will have the same planning goals for their pets. You may say, “I want my pets to stay in my home, in familiar surroundings, with a pet caregiver who will move in and live on the premises.” Or you may be comfortable with a new forever family or a sanctuary environment for your pets (particularly horses or other hard-to-place pets). These are just a few of the options that must be considered when creating a plan to ensure your pets will be properly cared for when you are unable to do so yourself, either through natural disaster, disability or death.

The Humane Society says that all too often, people erroneously assume that a long-ago verbal promise from a friend, relative or neighbor to provide a home for a pet will be sufficient years later. Even conscientious individuals who include their pets in their wills may neglect to plan for contingencies in which a will might not take effect, such as in the event of severe disability or a protracted will challenge.

Planning for your pets is an important part of your comprehensive estate plan. Your pets can’t take care of themselves, and they rely on you for everything. Be sure to give careful consideration to the needs of your pets as you think about the best way to provide for their lifetime care.

Contact a certified elder law attorney(*), such as Linda Strohschein and her team at Strohschein Law Group, for assistance with creating an estate plan that includes planning for your beloved pets. To set up an appointment, contact Strohschein Law Group at 630-300-0627.

This information provided by Strohschein Law Group is general in nature and is not intended to be legal advice, nor does it constitute a legal relationship. Please consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

(*) The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the CELA designation is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois.

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