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Wichita Estate-Planning Attorney Offers Options for Caring for Pets in Your Estate Plan

Weber Law Oct. 24, 2015

An essential task of anyone looking to create an effective estate plan is to carefully consider how the person wishes his or her affairs to be wound up following his or her death. In completing this task, most people are asked by their estate planning attorneys (or whatever book or website they are using) to consider their financial situation: their assets, their liabilities, and how they would like any remaining assets or items of personal property to be distributed. If the individuals creating their estate plans have children, they will be asked about who they would like to care for their child and what property should be given to the child.

But what about the “furry children” that over half of American households have – beloved dogs, cats, and other pets? How can a testator or grantor provide for his or her pet in the event that he or she predeceases the animal?

Understand How Pets Are Treated by the Courts After You Die

Despite how much you may love your pet, in the eyes of a court your pet is viewed as an item of property and will be distributed according to the terms of your will or trust (or, if you do not have an estate plan, your pet will be distributed according to the probate laws of Kansas. One of the primary problems encountered when no specific provisions concerning the deceased’s pet is contained in the deceased’s estate plan is a beneficiary or heir to whom the pet would otherwise pass does not want to accept responsibility for the pet. This can result in the pet going to another family member who is ill-prepared to care for the animal or (worse) the animal can wind up at a shelter.

 How Can My Estate Plan Provide for My Pet

Providing for your pet through your estate plan begins by communicating with your loved ones and beneficiaries as well as with your Kansas estate-planning attorney. Once others are aware of your needs and desires concerning care for your pet, your estate-planning attorney can help you provide for your pet through:

  • Provisions of your will: Like other items of property, you can specifically bequeath your pet to a specific individual. You may wish to bequeath not only the pet itself but also assets that are sufficient to care for the animal.

  • Creation of a pet trust: Kansas and the majority of other states allow pet owners to create a trust to benefit their pet so long as the pet is alive. In a pet trust, the creator of the trust funds the trust with assets that are then used to care for the animal. Unlike a provision in a will (which can only make a lump-sum distribution of assets to the person receiving the animal), a pet trust can make periodic distributions of income to the caretaker, thus alleviating any concerns you may have that the assets meant to care for your animal will be exhausted before the animal passes away. You also retain greater control over how the pet should be cared for.

  • Private agreement: You are always free to create a private contract with the individual who you want to care for your animal once you are gone. Using this method you retain the greatest amount of control over how your animal should be cared for in your absence. You should speak with a knowledgeable estate-planning attorney if you choose this route about how your wishes and desires can be enforced after your death.

The Wichita Estate-Planning Attorney at Weber Law Office is available to help you create a comprehensive and enforceable estate plan that accurately captures all of your final wishes – including those that pertain to your four-legged companions. Contact us today by calling us to discuss your estate planning needs today.