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Including pets in an estate plan

Many people in Colorado consider their pets a part of their family. When it comes to estate planning, pets should not be forgotten. There are several ways pet owners can draft their estate planning documents to ensure that their pet is cared for after they are gone.

Legally speaking, pets are considered personal property. Including provisions about who will take care of the pet in a will or other document is important. It is a good idea to discuss this responsibility with the potential caretaker before putting it in writing. If there is no one suitable available, there are charitable organizations that can help after an owner passes away.

If there is no time for a formal will to be drafted, pet owners can put their wishes into a letter or memorandum. This is a useful tool if the owner is planning to go on vacation or have surgery soon so that their wishes are written down just in case.

For pet owners who are willing to take a more elaborate approach, a pet trust may be an option. A pet trust names the pet and a caretaker, designates any money set aside for the pet's care and includes provisions regarding the pet's care. A pet trust should also name a trustee who is responsible for any funds held in the trust.

An attorney experienced in estate planning may be able to assist clients who want to make sure that their pet is taken care of after their death. State laws vary on what is allowed in a pet trust. In some cases, interested parties may be able to reduce the amount set aside for the care of a pet if the trust is deemed to be overfunded. An estate planning attorney may be able to discuss what options are available based on how courts have ruled on other cases in their state previously.

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