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Including Pets in your Estate Planning


            At some point in our lives we must think about what will happen with our assets after we are gone.  Whether our estate is small or large, we all have something that we want to leave to family and friends to remember us and to help them financially with their life.  But have you ever thought of including your pets in your estate planning?

            Reading an article recently in the Syracuse Post Standard,  about a woman who left her four cats a $50,000 trust fund, we learn how not to plan for our pets.  While this pet owner thought she was doing the right thing by providing money for her cats care in her will, she failed to actually find someone who would actually do the caretaking.  Instead she left it to the executor of her estate to find someone who would be willing to take all four of her cats, two of which have medical issues that require regular medication which their trust fund will reimburse you for. 

            In addition to wanting to keep all four of her cats together, she also put other stipulations in her will which complicates their adoption matters even further.  First the cats are to go to a home with no other pets.  This seriously narrows down the number of adopters available since anyone who would be willing to take on four new cats would probably already have a few cats of their own. Secondly the person who actually adopts them can expect regular visitations from the executor to check on their care. This seems a bit excessive and invasive into a potential adopter’s life. While it is pretty standard for an adopter at a shelter to have an initial home check to make sure the home is suitable, there is no continued long term plan to check up on the pet. But then again, pets adopted from shelters don’t come with a trust fund for their continued care.  And finally, when the cats die they are to be cremated so that their remains can be added to their owners remains before her final burial.  Basically this pet owner wants to maintain ownership and control of her pets to not only her end but her pets end as well.

            I have a plan to care for my pets in the case I am no longer here to take care of them. I know that if something happened to me that my spouse would continue to care for them in our home. However, if something happened to both myself and my spouse, we have a back up plan that leaves a certain amount of money for the continued care of our pets in our will. 

            What we have left for their care is no where near the amount this other woman left for her four cats. But then again it is not meant to provide for their lifetime care. It is meant to take care of their needs during their re-homing process. The money is also not left to my executor but instead to someone, with experience in pet adoptions, that I trust will take good care of them all until they can find their new forever homes. What I want for my pets when I am gone is to find each of them a new home with a new owner who will hopefully care for them and love them as much as I have.