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Making Provisions for Pets

pets in will

Making provisions for pets in your will, that’s what we’re here to discuss today.

I’m Sarah Siedentopf, I am a dog owner. I’m also an Estate Planning Attorney and Probate Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. So, making pet provisions in your will. The first thing to think about is, is it a gift, an outright gift, or do we want to do a pet trust? And the pet trust doesn’t have to be a standalone document.

It can be in your will, so it can be basically a clause in your will. But the difference is, if I give you some money outright, and I say, take care of my dog, I will my dog to you as well as $5,000, because I’m thinking this is a big job, there will be vet bills. I want him to have good food, all of this stuff. You can keep the money and give my dog away. That is legal. Obviously, I’m not going to leave my dog to anyone who I believe would do that, but it is worth knowing that it is a gift and does not require, and cannot require, the person to keep the animal.

On the other hand, if we make it a trust and put someone in charge of that money, then we can say that this trust, this money here in this pot, is being used for the care and maintenance of my animal, it’s being used for vet bills. It’s being used for good food. It’s being used to pay money to the person keeping the animal as a thank you because I really appreciate the role you’re taking on. So, it is very important to consider the difference there and figure out which one you want to go with because, of course, the gift, we’ve discussed the risk of the gift, on the other hand, if you’re doing the trust, somebody’s gotta be in charge of it, it doesn’t wrap up quite as quickly, so things are a little lengthier. Then, how much?

Whether you’re giving it in a flat gift versus the trust or not, you have to think about, how are we calculating what we’re giving? And it could be a flat amount. You know the number that works best for you, but it could be $5,000, it could be $20,000, it could be $500, whatever makes sense to you, a flat gift, thank you for taking care of my beloved pet.

Another thing that I’ve had clients do is come up with an age range and say, my pet will probably live 15 years and I want the executor of my will to take into account how old the pet already is, and then multiply the leftover years, if the pet is 10, we’re going to assume it’s going to live five more years, multiply that number by $2,500 a year. And that’s the amount of money that I want the person who’s taking that pet to get.

I’ve certainly also had people with the trusts who want to just say, I want the pet taken care of for as long as I live so every year, the trustees should use X amount of money, and then whatever’s left, goes to somebody else, to a charity, to wherever it is you want it to go. Because we have to set aside this money, and whatever doesn’t get used over the pet’s life has to go somewhere after that. So, there are all kinds of ways of figuring out how much you want to leave for your pet. But first, you have to figure out, is it a flat-out gift, or are we leaving it in trust?

So, I love to do estate planning that takes care of pets. So, if you’ve got more questions about this, please give me a call. And also, I love to hear your comments as well. Thank you.

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