For many people, pets are members of the family, and their care and well-being is a primary concern.
We understand your love for your pets, and are happy to assist you in any way possible to relieve your minds as to the care of your pets in the event of your incapacity, hospitalization or death.
Planning For Your Pet's Care in Your Will
Prior to making your Will, you should find a friend or relative willing to care for your pet, or pets, and to give it a good home on your death. You should approach your friend or relative to discuss whether they are willing to take on the responsibility for the care of the animal, and to make sure the animal will be cared for as you would have wished. A person who receives an animal as the result of a bequest in a Will should understand that he or she becomes the animal's legal owner on your death, and, as such, has all the rights and responsibilities of ownership. Once you have found someone to care for your pet in the event of your death, Deacon Taws can assist you in preparing a Will which will provide that any pet you may own at the time of your death will be given to the person you have named as a caregiver for your pet. We recommend naming an alternate caregiver in your Will in case the first-named person is unable or unwilling to take the animal when the time comes. Bear in mind that you can not bind someone to be obligated to care for your pet in your Will.
Alternatively, you may decide to give your Estate Trustee the discretion to select from among several caretakers whom you have spoken to and named in your Will. In this manner, the Estate Trustee can make the decision as to who is best qualified at the time of your death to care for your pet. Or, if no friend or relative can be found to take your pet, you may decide to look for a charitable organization whose function is to care for or place companion animals. When this type of discretion is provided, it is recommendable that it be unrestricted, since you will not be able to predict the circumstances your Estate Trustee will need to deal with at your death.
You may leave a sum of money in your Will to the person (or organization) designated to care for your pet, along with a request that the money be used for the pet's care. We would remind you that it is important to select a caregiver that you trust and who will be devoted to your pet, because the caregiver has no legal obligation to use any funds bequested to him or her in the care of your pet. You should leave only a reasonable amount of money for the care of your pet, in order that relatives or other beneficiaries do not feel obligated to challenge the Will. Where funds are left for the care of a pet, it is important to indicate where the remainder of funds will go, if any, on the death of the pet.
You may also make a "conditional bequest" in which both your pet and a sum of money are left to a beneficiary or caregiver, who must use the money for the care of the animal. A conditional bequest has the advantage of requiring the recipient to care for the pet but adds to the Estate Trustee's responsibility the task of ensuring that the person receiving the money fulfills his or her commitment.
You may decide to make a provision in your Will directing that your pet be euthanized upon your death, but although you may feel it is important to protect your pet from mistreatment or a "bad home," the Courts may question whether a healthy pet's life must end by euthanasia and may consider your pet part of your estate. If you wish to provide for euthanasia, you should specify in your Will that the pet be cared for by the Estate Trustee or a friend for a period of time and ask that this person attempt to find a good home for the pet, and if no home is found after a specified reasonable period of time, that the animal may be euthanized. An alternative is to write a letter to a friend or relative stating that upon your death, your pet should be euthanized. (A signed copy should be given in advance to the friend or relative and another signed copy should be held with the Will but not made part of the Will). The letter is not legally binding and the friend or relative is not obligated to carry out your instructions, and the letter may also be subject to court challenge.
Your Will should include a provision allowing the Estate Trustee to use estate funds to care for your pet for the period from your death until your pet goes to its new home. The Will should state that the costs of food, veterinary care, transportation and other expenses incurred by the Estate Trustee in caring for the your pet during this transitional period is to be paid from the estate as an estate administration expense, whether or not the expenses are deductible for estate tax purposes.
Providing Funds for the Care of Your Pets during Incapacity or Hospitalization
Powers of Attorney, which authorize someone else to conduct some or all of your affairs, have become a standard planning device. Such documents can be written to take effect upon your physical or mental incapacity. They are simpler than trusts and do not create a legal entity that needs to be maintained by formal means. Provisions can be inserted in Powers of Attorney authorizing your attorneys to take care of your pets, expend monies to do so, and even to place your pets with temporary or permanent caregivers, if appropriate.
Please remember, however, that legal devices can only complement your personal efforts in thinking ahead and finding temporary and permanent caregivers who can, and are willing to, take over your pet's care immediately when the need arises. You should try to find a friend or relative who is willing to take care of your pet during any period of incapacity or hospitalization. You should leave word, preferably in writing, at home and with a neighbor, or with the building management and/or superintendent, for the friend or relative to be notified in the event of your hospitalization or incapacity.
If you decide to use a kennel, animal shelter, or charitable organization to care for your pet in the event of your incapacity or hospitalization, you should leave written instructions in your home and with a relative or friend to notify the shelter to take care of your pet during this period.
You should carry a copy of your instructions in your wallet or purse. Here is a suggested wording:
"In any situation in which I am unable to return home to feed my pets, such as my hospitalization or death, please immediately call [insert name of caregiver] at [address and phone] or[secondary caregiver] at [address and phone], to arrange for the feeding of my pets located in my home at [address]."
The law firm of Deacon Taws recommends that all clients have a Will and Power of Attorney, and that these documents be reviewed every three to five years, or upon any major change in a family's circumstances, or of course, upon the death of a beneficiary, Estate Trustee or any other person named in a Will. We trust the above information is of value to you. The law firm of Deacon Taws would be pleased to discuss Wills and Powers of Attorney further with you at any mutually convenient time.
We would refer you to our Article on Wills & Powers of Attorney for further information.
Our form Personal Papers & Document Storage can assist you and your Estate Trustees in locating documents, when required. It is attached for your information and assistance.
|The foregoing articles are meant for informational purposes only and are not to be taken as legal advice. In the case of any questions, issues or needs arising from the above please contact us at Admin@deacontaws.com, Phone: (705)526-3791 or Fax: (705)526-2688|