Estate planning can help you create a strategy for managing your assets, both during and after your lifetime. That includes determining what will happen to your physical property, as well as your investments and other financial accounts. It can also, however, cover more than that if you have pets.
Pets are considered property in the state of Arizona, however, there are a few different ways pet owners can be assured their fur babies are taken care of if they should pass away. The most simple way to make arrangements for your pet is to leave them with a trusted friend or family member, along with a financial gift for the sacrifice they may make while caring for your animal.
Another option people have is to leave their pet to a no-kill animal shelter. This is not always ideal because the environment of a shelter can be stressful for the pet and there is no guarantee it will be adopted by a good home.
The pet trust generally terminates upon the death of the animal or the last surviving animal that is covered by the trust. Arizona law does not have much direction beyond this point making it very important to have an experienced estate planning attorney to create a pet trust that fits the individual needs of the pet owner.
Here are some things to consider prior to meeting with an attorney:
• Deciding who will be the pet’s guardian is first and foremost. Pet owners need to consider who will be the best next of kin. Also, it is important to think about whether or not the pets need to stay together of if they will be fine with going to different homes.
• Pet owners need to decide the amount of money that will be put into the pet trust. This can be difficult. Be sure to think about the pet’s age, the number of pets that need to be cared for, the standard of care your pet is accustomed to and the likelihood of adopting new pets.
• The pet trust allows the owner to give direction about how the money should be used. Think about details such as the brand of food, trips to the groomer and supplies. People can also specify the level of medical care the guardian will need to adhere to.
• Pet owners will need to consider who will be a fitting trustee. A trustee is someone who administers the trust and will also hold the money and make payments to the guardian on a regular basis for the care of the pet.
• One detail that is often overlooked is how the pet should be cared for in the event that the owner becomes incapacitated. Pet trusts close this gap by providing detailed instructions for what should happen in this case.
Like all things, a little bit of planning can go a long way. A pet trust is a useful tool to make sure your pet is not left behind.
Sarah Clifford is a business and commercial transactions attorney at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner law firm in Tempe, Ariz. The firm has more than 50 years of collective experience resolving real estate, mergers and acquisitions, tax, intellectual property, litigation, bankruptcy, family law, international business and immigration legal issues.