We all love our pets, for some they are our fur-babies. But what will happen to them if something should happen to us? Enter the new concept of Estate Planning for Pets.
There are two circumstances where Estate planning with regard to pets is relevant:
1. In the event of your death;
2. In the event of your incapacity.
The wellbeing of one’s pets needs to be considered with respect to both circumstances, especially as people are living longer but succumbing to dementia or Alzheimer’s. If you only deal with planning issues relating to your pets in your Will (which is only comes into operation on death), they will not be taken care of for what could be several years until death.
If you become incapacitated, and someone is appointed as your guardian, they can make all decisions on your behalf, and may rehome or euthanize your pet, which does happen, and by then any provisions in your Will become irrelevant.
I had a client who had dementia. Her sole companion was her dear cat. Altered by dementia she had actually wanted to euthanize the cat, whom she adored, believing the cat would not cope without her. As an animal lover this ‘solution’ was abhorrent to me. Her nephew stepped in and took care of what was seen as a problem – what to do with the cat.
The solution to dealing with pets can be one of the following:
1. Whilst you have all your faculties, draft a power of attorney to come into operation should you lose mental capacity, leaving written directions to your attorney or agent as to what your wishes are relating to your pets (and all other matters relevant to you.) Powers of attorney are fairly inexpensive to draft, and your letter of instructions can be drafted by you, and changed from time to time. This would take care of your pet from the date your lose legal capacity until the date you die, when the executor of your Will is then responsible for managing your affairs.
2. In your Will, leave directions relating to the care of your pet. You can leave a certain sum of money to whomever is to take care of your pet. You would choose an alternative nominee, in case your first choice cannot or will not comply with your wishes regarding your pet. In essence this is a form of testamentary trust in favour of your pet. This is a more costly document to draft in terms of legal fees. But this would deal with your pet from the date of your death to the date of the pet’s death.
3. You could establish a trust during your lifetime, in which funds are put aside for the care of your pet, which would start immediately and last during the lifetime of your pet. This is a very costly option, and you would need to put money into this trust which could not be remove if your circumstances changed. This is probably not something that many of us would consider a feasible solution, but it’s available should you so desire. It is your money after all.
4. If you have a trusted friend or family member, you could simply discuss your wishes with them and reach an agreement. When I wrote my book, “My Life Manual“, I included a section for exactly this purpose, to allow someone to make notes on the needs of their pets and their wishes for them. This section in the book, allows someone to update the information as circumstances change, without any costs involved (other than the price of the book of course)
So there you have it. Your fur-babies can be taken care of as well.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Let me know in the comments section below what you think. Will you be making some sort of provision for your cat or dog? Do you feel that you have an obligation to ensure that they are taken care of?