An estate plan helps take care of your loved ones if you die or become incapacitated. Pets, in particular, rely on you for everything and can do nothing for themselves. Estate planning should include the care of your pets if you die or become incapacitated.
Wills and other documents, such as a power of attorney, can address where your pet will live, identify the person who will be responsible for them and provide payment for their care. Health issues, odd behaviors and other unique requirements may be covered.
Selecting your pet’s caregiver for your pet is an important decision. Your will can set forth the person or organization that will have physical custody of your pets and give them daily care throughout their lives.
Willingness to care for your pets may be more important than your caregiver’s relationship to you. This selection requires candid conversations with potential caregivers about their willingness, devotion and living situation.
You should also decide how much money you should leave for the pets’ care. Consider how much compensation you want to provide to the caregiver and the amount of money needed to provide lifetime care to the pets. If your pets are staying in your home, you should consider the extra cost of keeping the property and home.
When calculating the amount of this money, determine how much you spend on your pets now and then assume they will live long lives. Add additional money in case they suffer a catastrophic illness. Life insurance and retirement plans may provide assets for this care.
Options include leaving a fixed amount of money to the trusted caregiver. But this risks that the funds may not be used for the pets’ care.
An option that provides more certainty is creating a pet trust for your pets’ lifetime care. Trusts may be included in a will, as part of a revocable trust or as a separate pet trust.
Creating a pet trust requires the selection of a trustee to manage the money for your pets. A trustee has the responsibility of assuring that your wishes and instructions concerning your pets’ care and the use of the money are followed. A trustee may also be the caregiver, but this may create a conflict of intertest.
A certified public accountant, attorney, trust company qualified charity or other professionals may be better choices. Animal Care Trust USA is nonprofit organization that can provide choices and information.
Attorneys can assist you with creating options and developing a plan that addresses these and other needs. They can prepare documents that meet New Jersey legal requirements.