What happens to my pets when I die?

What can be done if a client does not have a trusted friend or family member to name in their will or trust as caretaker of their pet?

For over twenty years, I have worked with clients regarding their estate planning and end of life affairs. As part of my planning, I have spent much time addressing concerns related to pets. Many clients have become very attached to their pets. Some clients after losing their spouse have relied on the love of their pets to help them through the most difficult time in their lives. In doing their planning, these clients feel strongly they want to provide for these “extensions” of their family.

A problem arises when there is no one in the area that can take care of the pet. In helping these clients, I have come to rely on local organizations established as 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations formed to help animals. Many of these organizations are operated on a purely voluntary basis.

These organizations are comprised of men and women that do much to better the lives of all animals. The organizations are equipped to make sure the person selected to care for my client’s pet, really is the right “fit”.

An extensive application, and a home visit to the person wanting to care for the pet are part of the process.

I have found these organizations well suited to help with caring for animals of estate planning clients.

As part of their estate plan, many clients set aside part of their estate for the care of their animals. The funds can be retained by the trustee, personal representative of the will or the client can designate a representative of the organization named as caretaker of the animal. The funds are then used to care for the client’s pet and to be administered to the individual or family providing the care.

In conclusion, many of us love animals. Planning for the animals we love most, our pets, can sometimes be hard. Using an estate planning attorney to prepare the necessary documents and relying on charitable organizations equipped to help, can make the process easier and rewarding.

Jeffery J. McKenna is a local attorney serving clients in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He is a shareholder at the law firm of Barney McKenna & Olmstead, PC, with offices in Mesquite and St. George. If you have questions you would like addressed in these articles, you can contact him at (435) 628-1711 or jmckenna@barney-mckenna.com.

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