Myth or Fact? I can make provisions for my pets in my will.

This is a FACT!

For those who own pets, the furry, feathered, or scaled friends often become beloved members of the family. However, pets are often over-looked when it comes to estate planning. You may have heard on TV some extreme examples of wealthy, old recluses who left all their money to their pets in a trust. While you are not likely to want to leave your life savings to a pet, you may want to ensure that they are properly cared for and give the person caring for them a stipend for their care.

When crafting your estate plan, there are two documents that you can include provisions for a pet—your will and your trust. Because pets are considered personal property under the law, like your couch, jewelry, and your car, you can direct their care/ownership to specific people. For example, if you wanted a cat-loving friend (or anyone else) to take your cat after you pass away, you can name your cat specifically in your will to go to your specifically named friend. You can also be vague and say any cat that I own when I pass away would go to the specifically named friend. You can also choose to specifically leave that friend an amount of money that you feel is appropriate for your cat’s continued care. If you are utilizing a trust as part of your estate plan, then the specific monetary gift, if you choose to leave one, should be included in your trust. The specific ownership of the animal should still be outlined in your will.

Each situation regarding a pet is going to have a different result. Maybe you have a pet that has specific medical needs that you know will be costly. Maybe you have a pet that is a purebred animal and has specific breeding needs. Maybe you have multiple family members who would love to take care of your pet and you need to set up an arrangement where they all share in the duties. Speaking with an elder law attorney about your estate plan, including your pets, can be very helpful in determining what is logical and appropriate for their care after you pass away.

Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. is an attorney at Legacy Legal Planning, LLC, in Norwell, Massachusetts. She has been practicing estate planning, probate, and elder law on the South Shore for over a decade. If this article has sparked questions for you, please feel free to reach out via phone 781-971-5900 or email to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation.