It is no secret that animal shelters are often strained to keep up with the abandoned pets under their care. Animal lovers may dread the thought of those once-loved pets living out their lives in cages with minimal attention and the barest of necessities provided. Some shelters keep animals for a limited time before euthanizing them to make room for more. It may break a pet parent's heart to learn that some of those animals ended up in shelters because their deceased owners made no provisions for them under estate and probate law.
While some may feel they have protected their beloved pets by including them in a will, the law in Pennsylvania and other states does not allow pets to inherit assets. An alternative is for the pet parent to leave money, along with instructions, to someone appointed as a caregiver. It is best to pre-arrange this since not everyone may welcome a pet. Some people are able to find an organization to adopt the pet.
Another option is for a pet owner to create a pet trust, which will offer the owner more control over how the funds are used for the pet since a trustee must distribute the assets to the caregiver. Pet parents may also consider purchasing a life insurance policy to fund the trust. Using a trust for one's pets will mean including instructions for when the pet dies, for the distribution of any remaining assets and for an alternative caregiver if the primary one cannot fulfill his or her duties.
Pet owners are in the majority in Pennsylvania and beyond. However, few pet owners have made provisions for their loyal companions. Seeking the advice of an attorney for information about estate and probate law, such as pet trusts, will help many make informed decisions about their estate plans.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Estate plan needs to provide for pets, too", Terry Savage, Oct. 6, 2017