For many people throughout the country, including here in California, there is nothing more important than the well-being of their beloved pets. The thought of one’s pets being dropped off at a public shelter upon the owner’s death is anathema to the great majority of pet owners. That is why providing for pets in wills and other estate planning documents can deliver precious peace of mind to the individuals and couples who own pets.
If a situation occurs where planning was not done, one can only hope that the person given the task will have the good sense to use a no-kill shelter. However, even that less than optimal choice cannot be assured without estate planning documents making it very clear what should be done. Most people who take the time to plan will likely choose to have a family member or close friend adopt the surviving pet.
Where that does not go far enough to suit the potential adoptive “parents” of the animal, estate planning attorneys usually recommend a pet trust be included in the estate plan. This will provide funding for the ongoing financial expenses after the owner’s death. Such trusts can be created inter vivos, i.e., during life, or by testamentary direction, which would be through a will.
Estate planning experts also recommend that the owner(s) provide a Letter of Final Wishes. This can include what to do immediately upon the owner’s death. It can also include vital details about veterinary care, shots, vitamins, feeding protocols and the like.
The instructional letter is important in California and elsewhere simply because the formal legal documents do not necessarily provide for immediate care. They also do not generally provide detailed instructions such as those mentioned above. Thus, wills and trusts can be supplemented by important written instructions that are necessary to carry out the owner’s wishes. With all of this accomplished, the owner can feel a deep sense of relief that beloved animal companions will enjoy security and loving care for the remainder of their lives.
Source: Forbes, “Estate Planning: Include Your Pets!“, Rob Clarfeld, March 30, 2017