It may seem obvious, but pets cannot really own property, so you cannot leave property to your pet. However, you can makes plans to ensure that your pet is taken care of after you die. You probably have two objectives in making such plans:
- make sure that your pet goes to a caring person or organization, and
- provide for the caretaker the resources to take good care of the pet.
You can use a clause your will to leave your pet — and money to care for your pet — to someone you trust to care of the pet or
You can create a Pet Trust. This is is obviously more expensive, but it is a stronger way to address this issue. WIth a pet trust you can leave your pet, money for care AND the legal obligation to care for your pet – something that is missing with just a clause in your will.
Some states actually allow for formal trusts for pets. Arizona is one of those states. The statute allows for the creation of a trust for a designated domestic or pet animal and must be performed in 21 years or less. The trust terminates when no living animal is covered by the trust. The remaining funds in the trust must be distributed as directed by the trust.
More often than not, estate planning for pets can be as simple as identifying the family member or friend who will care for the pet, as well as leaving a sum of money to the caregiver for the animal's upkeep and welfare — and making sure the information is contained in your will or trust. However, for a surviving spouse with no family or few friends, a trust can be the tool that will give them peace of mind if they go first.
It is comforting to know that pets can be cared for in the event of your death, and you'll know they are in good hands because you plan for it!