While it might sound odd to those not owning pets, many clients desire estate planning documents that provide care for their animals after the owner's death. Pets are property, for inheritance purposes, and lack of planning can place executors and family members in an uncertain position when an owner dies. Here is a simple list of planning ideas for concerned owners:
(1) Pet Care Documents. How would your executor know what kind of care your pet needs if you were deceased? How would your agent know the care required for your pet if you were incapacitated? Take guesswork out of the equation by having a straightforward written document that identifies your pet(s) and its/their specific needs and health issues.
(2) Additions to Power of Attorney Documents. Most power of attorney forms do not contemplate an agent using your funds for pet care, if you were incapacitated. Include provisions within your power of attorney that explicitly permit your agent to use your funds to care for your animals.
(3) Additions to Estate Planning Documents. Planning for pets after your death involves two distinct components: disposition and funding. The first is necessary, but the second may not be. Disposition involves identify the person(s) to receive your pet(s). Make sure your Will provides for such disposition. Next, are additional bequests of cash to the person(s) receiving your pet(s) necessary or desirable? If so, should those be one-time disbursements or is an ongoing trust be established via the Will? Trusts to benefit pets are specifically permitted by Pennsylvania law, and they can be a useful tool in ensuring that ongoing funding for the pet's care is provided (especially when the person who will be caring for the pet cannot be determined at the time the Will is drafted).
Planning for pets will not be appropriate for every client who happens to be a pet-owner, but for many clients, it can provide valuable peace of mind.