Dogs, cats, horses, iguanas, parrots. What will happen to your pets when you die?
This is a big issue. Even the Texas Supreme Court has recognized the strong ties between owners and pets. Justice Willett, writing for the Court in Strickland v. Medlen, said “Over 50% of pet owners say they would rather be stranded on a deserted island with a dog or cat than with a human…. American pets now outnumber American children by more than four to one…. many animal owners view their pets not as mere personal property but as full-fledged family members, and treat them as such….”
So how do you provide for care of your pet? Well, you can’t leave money directly to a pet. You shouldn’t leave money outright to an individual to take care of a pet. What’s left? A pet trust, of course.
Texas is one of several states that officially authorizes pet trusts. The trust can be contained in your will or set up through a separate document. There is an advantage to having a separate document because it can provide that the care for your pet starts on your disability, not upon your death.
You then fund the trust directly or through your estate. The amount of money should take into account your pet’s current standard of care – food, treats, daycare, veterinary care, grooming, boarding, travel expenses. The trustee has a duty to pay for the care of the pet. You can provide detailed requirements in the trust as to how the caregiver must care for your pet.
It’s a good idea to appoint someone other than the trustee as the pet caregiver, to make sure there are checks and balances in place. Other safeguards to put in place – micro-chip or have DNA samples of your pet preserved, let your friends and neighbors know about the trust, and have a door or window sign at your residence for emergency workers.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.
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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.