If you include a cat, dog, or other critter among your family members, there is a good chance that you have worried, at some time, about the fate of your family pet should something happen to you. This concern is certainly understandable. The good news is that protecting the family pet in your estate plan is relatively easy to accomplish with just a little pre-planning.
There are several ways to provide and plan for your family pet in the event of your incapacity or death. Unfortunately, many people count on simply making verbal arrangements with a family member of friend to take over the care and custody of a family pet should the need arise. There are several problems with this strategy. First, the intended caregiver could be unavailable or even unwilling to step up when the time comes. Second, the caregiver may not be financially able to care for your pet. Finally, the law may not support your decision since no legal transfer of ownership has been planned.
You can also gift your pet to someone in your Last Will and Testament. Though you may not think of your pet as your property, the law does. This solved the legal transfer of ownership issue; however, your intended beneficiary could still be unavailable, unwilling, or financially unable to care for your pet. Leaving funds in your Will to the intended caregiver could work; however, once those funds are transferred there is no guarantee they will actually be used to care for your pet. Moreover, gifting your pet in a Will does not address a situation wherein you become incapacitated.
A pet trust is the most complete and secure way to plan for the care of a family pet should something happen to you. A trust allows you to develop trust terms that will dictate how your pet is cared for in your absence. Everything from what vet the animal uses to what kind of food he or she is fed can be included in a trust. More importantly, a trustee of your choice will watch over the trust funds and make sure they are used according to your wishes. Unlike gifting a pet in your Will, a trust can be used in the event of your incapacity as well if you structure the trust to do so.
Consult with your Missouri estate planning attorney about how best to include your beloved family pet in your estate plan.