Many people in Washington have a cat, dog, bird or other animal companion. Having a pet can bring much joy to a person's life, as our pets provide us with companionship, comfort and unconditional love. With this in mind, as a person ages, they may have concerns about what will happen if their pet outlives them.
Legally, pets are considered to be an asset. So, while a pet may be a beloved family member, a person cannot simply leave money to their pet in their will. However, there are estate planning options for pet owners who wish to ensure that their pet is cared for should they become incapacitated or pass away.
One option is executing a pet trust. This type of trust will become effective once a person becomes incapacitated or passes away. In a pet trust, the owner can name a caregiver for his or her pet and a trustee. One individual can serve both as the caregiver and the trustee, but a person could choose to have a separate caregiver and trustee if they wish. In the trust, the pet owner will leave funds to the caregiver with instructions on how the pet should be cared for. These funds will be earmarked to be used for the care of the pet only. The funds can be either a lump sum payout or they can be made periodically.
Pet trusts are only one type of trust that are worth considering. Other types of revocable trusts exist that can help people pass their assets down to their chosen loved ones in a way that can bypass probate. The probate process can be lengthy and expensive, reducing the size of a person's estate. Moreover, when it comes to a pet, if the deceased person's estate is sent to probate, the pet will be treated no different than the sofa, television or other piece of property.
Making sure a pet is well cared for if the pet outlives them is important to most pet owners. No pet owner wants to see their beloved pet sent to a shelter if their pet outlives them.