Estate Planning/Pet Assets

dog with piggy bankFew would argue that Americans love their pets. But some would be shocked about the degree of this type of devotion:

  • Pet-related expenditures reached more than $60 billion in 2015
  • 20% of Americans admit to altering romantic relationships over pet disputes
  • 80% brag about their pets to others
  • 79% allow pets to sleep in bed with them
  • 37% carry pictures of their pets in their phones or wallets
  • 31% take time off from work to be with their sick pets
  • As many as 33.9 million households in the United States own dogs
  • 3 million own cats

Estate Planning Pet Assets
Red cat sitting on the laptop, dollar

With so much love in the air, it’s only natural that so many people take steps to make sure their animals will be provided for when they die…some in a big way! For example, according to ABC news, one woman left a fortune of $13 million to her four-year-old cat.

Regardless of whether you agree with her decision to grant so much wealth to a feline, if you own a beloved pet, a trust will ensure proper care after you are gone. Failing to provide for this contingency could undermine your wishes. Properly setting up a pet will guard against loopholes and other situations which could compromise your plans.

Don’t make one these mistakes when leaving your assets to your pet

  1. Leaving too much to your pet

Excess Pet Inheritance UplandAlthough most cases of wealthy eccentrics leaving entire fortunes to their pets are exaggerations, they do occur. This is unfortunate, since leaving millions of dollars, homes and cars pets invites contestations by resentful family members. To avoid this type of litigation, leave a reasonable sum of money to your dog or cat, but just enough so that the pet will maintain the same quality of life you provided during your lifetime.

  1. Muddying the waters with an unclear estate

In many cases, pets don’t receive the care their owners intended because specific instructions were unclear or legally binding, because they were not noted in a trust. Pet trusts clarify instructions and guarantee their legal enforceability.

For instance, if you leave money to a caretaker hoping he or she uses the resources to care for your pet, the caretaker could potentially use the pet’s money to fund his or her own lifestyle. You can avoid this caveat by creating a trust for your pet. A pet trust should designate how the amount of money caretakers will receive and how much of that is meant to be spent in the care of the pet. The pet trust could also include instructions about from how the caretaker should spend on food, veterinary care, and grooming. What’s more, additional (non-financial) instructions can be noted, such as how often the dog should be walked or taken to a park.

Your estate can dictate how often the caretaker walks your dog after you die.

Your estate can dictate how often the caretaker walks your dog after you die.

  1. Failing to update your estate

If a pet owner sets up a pet trust for his or her dog, and that dog passes away, the trust should be updated to reflect the change. And if you get a new dog which you fail to name in the trust, it could wind up in a shelter or euthanized. This is a common yet tragic mistake which can be easily avoided with regular estate plan review.

  1. Estate Planning: Forgetting Plan B

You might have a trusted friend or loved one designated as a caretaker in your pet trust, but what happens if that person is unable or unwilling to assume that role when the time comes? If you fail to name a contingent caretaker, your pet might not receive the care you intended. Always have a “Plan B” in place, which is spelled out in the trust.Plan B message and paintbrush on table

  1. DIY Estate Planning

Don’t make the mistake of trying to set up a pet trust yourself. Although you can download forms from do-it-yourself legal websites, these standard documents fail to allow for individual circumstances. An experienced estate planning attorney will make sure that everything is handled thoroughly, professionally and pain free.

For best results, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

For best results, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Keeping your estate planning binder secure and up to date will reduce confusion as well as the likelihood of disputes.  Whatever your circumstances, rest assured that the legal professionals at Skvarna Law can help you to determine the best way to handle your trust. Skvarna Law Firm operates offices in Glendora and Upland, California and provides legal services for individuals living in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties. This includes the cities of Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Colton, Rialto, Chino, Chino Hills, Glendora, Claremont, Montclair, Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas, Azusa, Covina, West Covina, Diamond Bar, Walnut, La Puente, Corona, Norco & Mira Loma. Visit SkvarnaLaw.com to learn more.

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