At TuckerAllen, we love pets. In fact, almost every single TuckerAllen employee has a dog in their household! Whether it’s a good report card from doggie daycare or a worrisome report from the vet, we spend a lot of our free time talking about our furry companions. We consider our pets our family.
We especially love it when our clients love pets, too! Nothing makes our day more than to see your pet on a virtual client consultation or see pictures of your pet at an in-person meeting. A great deal of our clients at TuckerAllen have cats and dogs, but we also have had clients with very memorable pets – a turtle, parrot, snakes, and more.
Part of being a good pet owner is not just providing lots of pets and snuggles, but also having a plan for them in case something happens to you. No doubt you have a friend or relative you can call on in case you are delayed and Fido needs to be let out, or a pet sitter on hand in case you have to leave Mr. Mittens for a few days. But what about an unexpected accident or illness? Does your family know who will take in your pet? How will that person pay for your pet’s upkeep? Your estate plan gives you the ability to put a plan in place, just like you would with a minor child.
The ultimate goal of an estate plan with pet provisions is to avoid the abandonment or surrender of your pets to a shelter when you can no longer care for them. Ideally, your pet ends up with a new human who loves them every bit as much as you do, and has the money to spoil your pet like the king or queen she is.
We love pets so much that basic pet provisions are now included in our documents at no additional charge to you in our standard estate planning packages. For example, a Durable Power of Attorney nominates someone to make financial decisions for you when you are incapacitated. Our document automatically includes a provision authorizing your agent to provide for your pet’s custody and care.
We can also include a free pet provision in our trusts or wills which nominates someone to act as your Pet Custodian upon your death. This person will be in charge of the day-to-day care for your pet. We also encourage you to name several alternative Custodians, in case your first choice cannot take on your pet for any reason.
We also allow you to set aside funds for your Pet Custodian to care for your pet if you think your Pet Custodian will need help supporting your pet in the style it is accustomed to. Your Trustee can make payments to the Custodian on a one-time (for wills), yearly, or monthly basis (for trusts). It also provides general language that your pet should be humanely euthanized when your vet believes his or her quality of life has declined to an unacceptable level, so that your pet isn’t suffering.
For example, my standard poodle, Tort, has high maintenance costs. Poodles have hair – not fur – which doesn’t shed but will continue to grow until cut. Tort therefore has to go and get “haircuts” at least every 6-8 weeks to keep his curly mop tamed, which run about $100. My ideal Pet Custodian doesn’t have that extra money laying around, plus his usual food, medicine, and doggy day care costs, so I’ve set up my estate plan so that his Pet Custodian doesn’t have to pay for that herself. This way, Tort can enjoy his usual grooming standards but still have the best substitute human around to care for him.
I’m also pretty sure that there would be some conflict among my family as to who would take Tort in if I was unable to care for him, which is why I have set out my lineup of Pet Custodians for him. Perhaps this is unnecessary, but in my mind, Tort is the best boy in the whole world and who wouldn’t want him? Naming a Pet Custodian means that there is far less of a chance for conflict because I have already made the decision.
Providing a basic plan for your pet ensures that your fur baby is going to be taken care of no matter what. If you are a new client, we can include pet provisions in your documents at no cost. If you are an existing client, we can update your documents to include these provisions for a small fee if they are not already included.
For those pet owners for whom a standard pet provision is not enough, we can also set up a Pet Trust. A pet trust provides a more comprehensive plan for the care of your pet than our standard provisions. For example, you can provide what and how often a pet should be fed, who the vet should be, make additional funds available in case or an emergency vet visit, and what should happen to your pet’s remains. A pet trust is an additional fee, which can be set up independently or at the same time as your estate plan.