Eighty-five million American families own a pet. No matter the kind of pet you have, many would agree that pets are part of the family. Naturally, then, most people want their pets properly cared for, even after they die.
Leona Helmsley, the billionaire real estate and hotel tycoon, famously left $12 million to her dog, Trouble. Likewise, fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld left some of his estimated $300 million fortune to his Burmese cat, Choupette. These examples aside...can you actually leave some of your estate to your pet?
Technically, no. Animals are legally considered property so they cannot inherit anything from you. However, you can leave your pet to a friend or relative to take care of in the event of your death. You can make this a legal provision in your Will or Trust. You can also leave money to that individual with the intention that they use it toward the care of your pet. While leaving the money and your pet to a new owner is legally enforceable, you cannot stipulate that they use the money toward the care of your pet.
Alternatively, you can create a pet trust to care for your pet after you die. A pet trust is a legal arrangement to provide for the care of your pet during its lifetime. You appoint someone to take care of your pet and leave money for that person to use toward your pet's care. While a pet trust may be more expensive, it allows you to spell out specific instructions for your pet's care and ensures that the funds are used toward your pet.
Estate planning gives you the ability to make some important decisions for your family - including your pets. If you'd like to discuss how to care for your pets after you die, schedule a meeting with one of our experienced attorneys.