Pet owners in Shenandoah Valley love their animal companions and view them as members of the family, so it may be distressing to learn your pet will be considered personal property rather than a family member with inheritance rights should you die. It is important to keep your pet in mind when estate planning. There are three general options for addressing the care of your pet.
Providing for your pet in your will
Just like you can leave a car or jewelry to someone in your will, you can leave your pet to someone in your will. You can also leave money to that person for the care of your pet. Properly executed, wills are legally binding. It is important to note that once a person inherits your pet, they are free to decide what to do with your pet. So, make sure you can trust the person you leave your pet to and that this person wants to take care of your pet.
A binding letter
A pet owner may also be able to execute a signed binding letter for the care of their pet. This is useful if you unexpectedly become sick or some other circumstances arise where you need to quickly get something in writing to protect your pet. States that allow binding letters will treat them separately from a will.
A pet trust
Like a will, you can designate who should take over ownership of your pet when you die in a pet trust. You can also set aside funds for the care of your pet and dictate what type of care you want for your pet in a pet trust. A trust is overseen by a trustee who has a fiduciary duty to carry out the terms of the trust. This means they have the legal authority to ensure that the person who inherits your pet uses the funds set aside for the care of your pet as you indicated in the trust instrument. You can even name a remainder beneficiary in your trust who will inherit the remaining funds set aside for the pet should there be any left when the pet passes away.
Keep your furry friend in mind when estate planning
As this shows, you have options for providing for the care of your pet should you die. Each option has its plusses and minuses, so it is important to examine all your options carefully so you can choose the one that is best for you and your beloved pet.