Protecting Your Pet Through Estate Planning: A Guide for Florida Residents
As a pet owner, it is essential to consider your furry friend’s future in your estate planning. Many pet owners forget to include their pets in their estate planning, leaving them vulnerable to uncertain futures.
At Hoyt & Bryan, our Florida estate planning attorneys help residents of the Sunshine State co-create estate plans to embrace their vision for their loved ones, including pets – our children who wear fur coats – and provide for them.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan includes legal directions that allow you to plan for what will happen to your property in the event of incapacity or death. We like to say, so you can, “Give what you have, to whom you want, when you want, the way you want.” At minimum, a comprehensive estate plan will include the following:
- Last Will and Testament
- Personal Property Memorandum
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
- Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- Preneed Guardian Declaration
- Organ Donation Declaration (optional based on individual wishes)
- Memorial Instructions.
How Can My Pet(s) Be Involved in My Estate Plan?
Estate planning is an action plan used to protect your loved ones and assets and ensure your wishes are followed after your death. Unfortunately, many people do not include their pets in their estate plans and, as a result, approximately 500,000 pets are euthanized annually. We can help ensure your furry friends’ well-being in the event of your incapacity or death through estate planning for pets.
The first step to including a pet in your estate plan is identifying at least two individuals who can act as caregivers to your furry friend if something happens to you. This should be an individual who will either know how to access your home and care for your animal, or a trusted individual we can craft caregiving instructions for. Regardless of who you identify as a caregiver, it is essential to have instructions for each pet that you own, including the following information:
- A photo of the pet
- Identifying information
- Veterinary information
- Health records
- Feeding instructions
- Care requirements
- Final plans for your pet
This information should be updated on a regular basis to ensure its accuracy in the event that something happens to you.
What are the Legal and Financial Implications of Setting Up a Pet Trust?
Approximately 12-25% of pet owners name their pets in their Last Will and Testament. However, pets are not permitted to inherit property, and this can complicate the probate process after your death. Therefore, we often recommend creating a Stand Alone Pet Trust as a part of your estate plan.
A pet trust may be created and can serve to provide care for an animal who is alive during the settlor’s lifetime. The settlor is the individual who creates the trust. The trust will terminate upon the death of the animal. The settlor will appoint a trustee who should be able to administer the trust assets and take care of the pet. You can also use organizations such as Animal Care Trust USA, which will provide trustee services for you and your pet.
Financially, you will want to put enough funds into the trust to ensure your animal is cared for. There are yearly costs associated with caring for a pet which can vary depending on the type of pet. The following factors should be considered when setting up the trust:
- Living standards for the pet (i.e., what kind of dog food, shelter, grooming, etc.)
- Whether any trustee or caretaker is to receive compensation for their services
- The yearly cost of maintenance for the pet
- Life expectancy
Hoyt & Bryan Can Help
Including your pet in your estate plan ensures their safety and well-being. At Hoyt & Bryan, we understand this emotional bond between pets and their owners and want to help you protect your furry friend’s future. Our experienced Florida pet estate planning attorneys will help guide you through the estate planning process for pets and make arrangements to safeguard your wishes.
Contact us today at (407) 977-8080 to learn more about how we can help with your estate planning needs.