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Millennials & Estate Plans: Protect Your Pet

Millennials and Pet Estate Plans

Summary: Millennials may be waiting longer to buy a home, get married, and have children. But they are part of an increasing trend in pet ownership. When it comes to estate planning for pets, there are two basic options: a will or a pet trust.

Millennials, the generation born between the 1980s and mid-1990s, may not see the need for estate planning just yet. But this group is about to succeed baby boomers as the largest adult population in the US (Source: Pew Research Center). About 78% of this country’s population aged 36 and younger do not have a will or a trust in place (Source: But having documents in place that protect yourself and your assets are important at any age.

Millennials, more so than previous generations, are more likely to focus on their education and career over marriage and family. This means that they are experiencing the milestones that typically trigger estate planning later in life. For example, many people begin the estate planning process because they want to make sure their children are provided for and protected – if anything were to happen to them or the other parent. While millennials are waiting longer to get married, have children, or purchase a home, they are exhibiting an increase in pet ownership.

For the past 20 years, pet ownership has increased in the US. Approximately 68% of American households own some sort of pet (Source: American Pet Products Association). So, what happens if one of these 85 million pet owners passes away or is incapacitated? What plan should they have in place to make sure their fur babies and feathered friends? When it comes to estate planning for pets, there are two basic options.

The first option is a will. Pet owners can designate a guardian for their pet and leave instructions and funds for the care of their animals. A will is a useful tool; however, pet owners should know that pet guardians are not legally obligated to accept or maintain your animals. 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. In other words, once the pet guardians receive the money, they can do anything they want with it.

The second option for your pet is a trust. A trust is an estate planning tool designed to accomplish a specific goal, such as the care and maintenance of a pet. It 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 funds, and stipulate how the pet trust should be enforced. Trusts are slightly more complicated than wills, but they can help ensure that the money you set aside for your pet is actually used for the care of your pet.

While millennials have a habit of delaying their estate planning, they also tend to have more assets than they realize – pets included. It is an unpleasant reality that incapacity can occur at any time, but you can save your family unnecessary stress by having a plan in place to protect your pets. Make sure that you identify the people who are going to take and love your animals and care of them regardless of whether there’s money left for that purpose.

For more about pets and estate planning, download our FREE Pet Safety Plan HERE. You can also watch our video on estate planning for pets. If you would like to schedule an estate planning consultation, please contact Siedentopf Law at (404) 736-6066 or via our online form.

© Sarah Siedentopf and Siedentopf Law, 2019. 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 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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