Can I Provide For My Pet in My Will?

elderly man sitting with multiple pets and animals

Did you know that 85 million, or 67%, of American homes include a pet? And of those pet owners, 95% would consider their pets to be family members. We all know an animal lover who would give anything to make sure Fido or Fluffy is cared for throughout the duration of their four-legged life. But for those people who would do anything for their pet, does that include leaving provisions in their will for the animal? In Pennsylvania, the answer is yes.

Estate Planning for Pet Owners

Even though Fido may be your baby, he’s technically not a child–meaning no custody battle, and no beneficiary issues. Instead, pets are treated as personal property in Pennsylvania. So, if you die without the creation of proper estate planning documents like a will or trust, your four-legged friend will be distributed with the rest of your assets. But, you can protect your pooch by creating an Animal Trust.

Animal Trusts: PA Estate Planning

Under Pennsylvania Statutes §7738(a) of Title 20, pet owners have the option to create a trust for their pets should the owner pass away.

In essence, the animal trust will provide for the care of an animal during his or her life and terminates upon the death of the animal. Should the animal trust be created for more than one pet, it will terminate upon the death of the last surviving animal. The trust-maker can appoint someone for the care and maintenance of the animal; if no one is named, the court will appoint someone.

It is worth mentioning that should another individual (such as a child or spouse) have an interest in taking the pet, he or she may petition the court to get pet custody. This is especially important if the original person named has no interest in caring for the pet, or if the court-appointed individual cannot.

Along with who will care for your pet(s) after your death, you’ll need to establish the funds to do so. This can be done by reviewing the age, health, and living requirements the pet is accustomed to. Remember–an animal trust is not intended to write your children, spouse, or grandchildren out of an inheritance, rather, it’s to care for an extended, four-legged family member.

If, however, there are concerns about the amount of money left in a trust for the pet, the court will be able to determine if it’s unreasonable.

Finally, at the pet’s passing, the remainder of the trust will be distributed to your beneficiaries.

Other Aspects of Pet Estate Planning

Within your own estate planning documents, you likely have your wishes for end-of-life care, burial arrangements, etc. But did you know you can also include where Fluffy’s final resting place will be? Some pet owners want to be buried with their beloved pets, so you’ll be able to stipulate that within your will or pet trust. Just make sure the cemetery you have selected allows that.

In addition, you may want to create a pet protection agreement that will dictate how the pet(s) should be cared for should you no longer be able to, or pass away. This includes:

  • A new guardian of the animal(s)
  • Instructions for ongoing care
  • Healthcare directives and euthanasia
  • Pet power of attorney

We know that creating estate planning documents for your own life and the estate is a complicated and stressful process, perhaps leaving you to emotionally lean on the love and support of your pets. But you’ll want to make sure you care for them, even after you are gone. Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.

Prepare for Fido’s Final Rest with the Estate Planning Lawyers of MVSK Law.

We want our pets to live long healthy lives and sometimes, that means they even outlive us. When you worry about your pet’s care and comfort after you pass, you’ll want to ensure they are included in your estate plans. And Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help you through it.

Call (570) 348-0776 and schedule an appointment with Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. We can walk you through, step by step, all the legal options available to you.

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