When you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to have an estate planning attorney in your corner who has experience addressing your individual needs, right down to the smallest of details. This includes your pets and having a strategy in place for how they will be cared for during your lifetime and after you are gone.
Many attorneys might not think of that little detail, but we have heard from clients who insist the relationship they have with their beloved pets is just as important as the ones they have with their family and friends. Like a child, your dog or cat relies on you for everything, so including pets in an estate planning strategy makes perfect sense. Doing this sooner rather than later provides peace of mind as you continue on in your journey.
In Chapter 5 of my book, You’re not Alone: Living with Alzheimer’s Disease, we point to two key documents every pet lover should consider when including pets in an estate planning strategy: A Pet Trust and a Will.
What is a Pet Trust?
This is a trust that can be written to be effective during your lifetime to provide financing for your pets’ care. It can also be written so that the trust continues to finance the care after your death. A pet trust can include:
- Specific directions to the trustee related to the care and maintenance that they are to arrange and pay for, or
- More general guidance, relying on the trustee to make decisions he or she considers best at any given time
When it comes to including pets in an estate planning strategy, you could find a Pet Trust form on the internet. But it is best to instead consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure the document is drafted correctly. This includes knowing how much money should be deposited into the account and help with estimating how much the desired care might cost for the life expectancy of your pets.
How does a Last Will and Testament factor in?
Surprising as it may sound, you can include a clause in your will for the future care of your pets. This is most commonly done by funding a testamentary trust in the will. Similar to establishing a trust for minor beneficiaries, the will would name a trustee for the Pet Trust. It would also provide for a specified amount of funds from the estate to be used to fund the trust. The trust can specify the purpose of the trust and how the funds should be used.
A couple of notes to consider when doing this:
- Select the right trustee and caregiver—someone who can handle that level of responsibility
- Help the trustee perform his or her role by giving them as much written guidance as you can about your wishes
A few questions that must be answered include the following:
- What type of food does your pet prefer?
- What veterinarian has been caring for them?
- What medical conditions exist?
- What kind of exercise and games do they enjoy?
- What are their sleeping habits?
- Who should be called to care for your pet in an emergency?
Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!
Flexibility in estate planning is important, especially when you have a pet that needs to be cared for when you cannot. Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC so that we can help ensure your pet will be taken care of in the best way possible. Proper planning is essential. Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning need. We look forward to serving you.
Thanks for reading!