Can I include my pet(s) in my estate plan?

Estate planning for your pets

Summary: Siedentopf Law explains the different ways you can include your pets in your estate plan.

Estate planning is an important process through which a person can provide for their family members and other loved ones.  For many of us, our “family” includes our parents, children, partners, relatives… and our beloved animals.  When it comes to our pets, is there a way to ensure they will be taken care of, if we are no longer able to do it?

The answer is YES.  States including Georgia have provisions in place related to pets and estate planning.  Siedentopf Law can help you chose the best option for you and your four-legged family members.  Here is a closer look at some of the possibilities:

Will:  Pet owners can leave instructions and funds for the care of their animals.  But, because pets are considered property (and not people) under Georgia law, pet owners have to first designate a pet guardian.  Once that guardian is in place, the pet owner can make any bequests directly to them.  A will is a useful tool for leaving specific instructions.  However, pet owners should know that pet guardians are not legally obligated to accept or maintain your animal(s).  Also, any money left in the will for the guardian is considered a gift, and that person would receive the funds regardless of whether they keep the pet.  Finally, in order for the will to take effect, it must go through probate, which can be a lengthy process.  Pets are typically in need of immediate care.

Trust:  Another option is setting up a trust for your pet.  A trust, by definition, is a legal entity designed to accomplish a specific goal (such as care and maintenance of pet) and is effective immediately upon a person’s disability or death.  There are several different types of pet trusts, which vary based on the pet owner’s preferences.  For example, the pet owner can establish a trust to designate a pet caretaker, earmark a certain amount of funds, and/or stipulate how the pet trust should be enforced.

Siedentopf Law can help pet owners navigate the estate planning process, and provide peace of mind about the future care of their animals.  For more information about a specific bequest or pet trust, please contact us at (404) 736-6066 or EstateLawAtlanta.com.

If you are also worried about taking care of family heirlooms check out our blogs on the subject: Part One and Part Two.

© Sarah Siedentopf and Siedentopf Law, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Siedentopf Law and EstateLawAtlanta.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Categories