No-this isn’t a joke-I’m not suggesting that Fido or Fifi can write up a Will. New Hampshire and Massachusetts, like many other states, allow you to make arrangements for your pets after your death or disability. We just put down our 15 year old dog recently, and I began to think about how pets have become part of our families. Of course, we worry about our pets, just like we worry about our children; pets are unique, though, because they do not mature and become independent, like our children (we hope), so there is even more reason to be concerned with their welfare when we become incapacitated or die.
The easiest way to provide for your pets if you become unable to take care of them, or die, is to set up a “Living Pet Trust”. A “Living Trust”, one that is set up during your lifetime, and not through a Will, includes protection and care for pets. In addition to setting aside money or property to care for your pets, you also need to pick a Caretaker (and, preferably an alternate person, in case your first choice cannot be the Caretaker) who will be responsible for the care of your pets. You can also name a separate Trustee to handle the finances. Another way to make sure that your pets have a home and money for their care after you die is to include a Pet Trust in your Will. The disadvantage of using the Will instead of a Trust, is twofold: first, the Will doesn’t cover situations where you can’t take care of your pets; and second, a Trust created through a Will requires Court supervision, which is costly and time-consuming.
When thinking about your estate plan, don’t forget to include your fur family!