Statistically speaking the chances are that you have not made a will. This is because a staggering 68% of adult Americans have not yet made one.
Drafting a last will and testament though, gives you the opportunity to set out your last Will and specify exactly what should happen to your assets after your death including your house, your savings, your guitar…. and your pet. But hold on, can you add pets to a will…..?
Well in today’s post we are going to look into and examine the intricacies of adding a pet to a will. The post will focus on estate planning for pets in your last will , how to add pets to estate planning, and how to make sure your furry (or feathered) friend is looked after, after you have gone.
Can You Add Pets To a Last Will?
You may well be wondering can you add pets to a will and the short answer is yes, you can. Legally, your pets are your property and as such, can be added to your last will just as your house, your car or your LP record collection can. When you draft your will, you are free to state what you want to happen to your pet after you die.
We will look at exactly what this means as we go on.
Estate Planning For Pets
You may have heard urban myths about eccentric millionaires leaving their vast fortune to an oblivious Chiwawa whilst their expectant relatives are left fuming with anger. In reality though, it is not legally possible to leave your possessions or your wealth “to” a pet – this is because pets are themselves considered to be property and therefore are not entitled to inherit property themselves.
Therefore when somebody includes their pet in their will it is usually to specify which friend or relative they want to take care of the pet, and to provide them with any instructions or information they may need to take care of your pet such as the details of your vet.
Of course, the named person is not obligated to respect any last wishes and may not actually want responsibility for the pet. As such it is a good idea to discuss the matter with them before making the will. Additionally, it is also worthwhile to name a back-up, Plan B caretaker in case the first choice dies or cannot accept the pet when the time comes.
Just remember that when you leave a pet to somebody, you are bequeathing them a financial responsibility so it is probably a good idea to also leave them a sum of money to help with the costs of looking after the animal. In reality though, they are free to spend the money as they wish so it is very important to appoint somebody who you trust to respect your wishes after you are gone.
How to Add Pets To Estate Planning – Pet Trusts
Another (more unusual, expensive and complex) option is to create a legal trust and name your pet as the beneficiary. What this means is that you can ask for your possessions to be sold and the funds directed to a trust fund with the exclusive intention of looking after your pet.
Of course, pets can’t actually manage trust funds themselves so you will also need to appoint an administrator/trustee who will ultimately be responsible for managing the trust and therefore ultimately responsible for the pet.
If the trustee fails in their duty to look after the pet then they can be legally challenged although in practice, in your absence nobody is likely to actually do this. Also bear in mind that pets don’t value material wealth but do value love and companionship – therefore creating a trust fund for a pet is rarely in an animal’s best interests.
Failing To Mention Your Pet in Your Last Will
If you don’t specially mention your pet in your will, then they will form part of your “residual property” and will be bequeathed to the main beneficiary of your will (or the person nominated to inherit your “residual property”). This person will then have full discretion over what to do with the pet.
If you did not make a will before you die, then your home state’s Intestacy Laws will kick in. If a suitable relative cannot be identified to deal with your estate, then the State will. Once again though, the pet will ultimately be treated simply as residual property.
Remember that if nobody is able to willing to take care of the pet, then it will probably end up been taken to an animal shelter from where it may be rehomed, or may eventually be euthanized.
Final Thoughts on Adding a Pet To a Will
As you have seen, estate planning for pets and adding a pet to a will is very important. If you have not yet made a will, then it is vital to do it as soon as possible. Historically it used to be quite expensive to create a will, but with the rise of online will makers offering the best pet estate plans, the costs are now very affordable.
Alternatively, if you have already made a will but failed to include your pet in it, then we have shown you how to add pets to estate planning. You can either modify the existing will or simply create a new one which will supersede the previous one.