Wills, Wags and Wine: Estate Planning for Your Pet

Last week I attended a presentation organized by the Cleveland APL, “Wills, Wags and Wine” on Estate Planning considerations for your pet. It’s not a fun thing to think about, but something every pet owner should consider at some point.

In my full time job I write for a legal services company, so this is an issue that I wanted to learn more about for my job, as well as for my own life. I have often wondered what I should plan for Hunter and Roscoe if something happened to me. I don’t think I have any family members that would want to take both dogs together and I would hate to break them up. This presentation got me thinking that even though I don’t expect anything to happen to me, it’s not a bad idea to come up with a plan and at the very least discuss it with my family members.

 

One interesting thing that came up in the presentation was creating a Pet Trust to care for your pet after your passing. Although you can name someone in your Will to take over the care of your pet(s) upon your passing, a Will doesn’t really require them to do anything with the pet. They could give the pet away to someone else, or take him to a shelter. Hopefully, if you’ve chosen someone you trust this wouldn’t happen, but you never know for sure. Maybe that person doesn’t have the money to care for your pet, or circumstances change in their life and your pet doesn’t fit in.

The good thing about a Pet Trust is that it allows you to name a caregiver as well as leave money for his or her care. The trust also allows you to give requirements for your pet’s care, how many times he or she should see a vet, what food he should eat, what activities he likes. The attorney at the presentation, Christina Hronek (Hronek Law LLC in Broadview Heights) said that since Pet Trusts have only been around since 2007 in Ohio, there have not been any lawsuits or cases involving issues enforcing the trusts. In reality, it’s unlikely that you could guarantee that someone follows your instructions to the letter (because really who would know?) but at least it gives you a chance to communicate what you’d want for your pet. Hopefully if you’ve chosen someone you trust as the caregiver, they will be happy to carry out your wishes.

A trust would also give you the option to leave your pets to a rescue organization and provide stipulations on who could adopt them (like if you want to keep the pets together). You could even leave requirements about where you’d like your dog buried or if you want him cremated, where his or her ashes should go. To learn more about Pet Trusts, this site has some great information: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/planning-for-your-pets-future/pet-trust-primer

This was the second time the APL hosted this event and I’d recommend attending it if they host it again. In addition to the informative discussion, they also provided sandwiches, appetizers and wine! Definitely an interesting presentation that got me thinking about making a plan for my boys.

Photos of Roscoe and Hunter courtesy of Brittany Graham Photography