Pets And Your Estate Plan

May 6, 2022

Pets And Your Estate Plan

Your pets are very much a part of your family, and your estate plan is all about taking care of your family after you are gone. Naturally, you will want to address the matter of your beloved pets in your estate plan, but you may not be sure what your options are. Fortunately, when it comes to pets and your estate plan, the experienced estate plan attorneys at Johnson Law Group in Colorado can help you carefully address the matter of your pets’ care after you pass. Consider calling (720) 463-4333 or texting (720) 730-4558 to schedule a consultation.

Your Estate

If you do not have a Last Will and Testament (will), the matter of your estate—and how your assets will be distributed—will be determined by the laws of intestacy of the State of Colorado. Colorado has no provisions regarding the care of pets built into these laws, which means that a pet owner who has concerns regarding the ongoing care of his or her pets must be proactive and address the matter in an estate plan. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that these members of your family will continue to be loved and cared for cannot be overstated.

Trusts

The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing defines a trust as any arrangement set up by a grantor—the person who creates the trust—that engages a trustee to administer the transfer of property to someone else—the beneficiary. Unlike some other states, Colorado views pets as property, but the state also allows what are commonly called pet trusts. Estate planning is a nuanced legal challenge, but when pets and your estate plan converge, it can be even more complex. The compassionate Colorado estate planning attorneys at Johnson Law Group can help to ensure that your wishes regarding your pets are clearly addressed in your pet trust, which helps to ensure that those wishes will be carried out exactly as you intend when the time comes.

Do I Need a Pet Trust?

You may think that a sufficient plan is to ask your child, friend, neighbor, or someone else to take your pets in the event that you are not able to care for them yourself. While this may work perfectly fine because you trust the person you have asked to take on this responsibility, there are any number of factors that can leave your pets vulnerable. No one can know what the future will bring. While agreeing to potentially take over caring for someone else’s pets may not seem like a huge commitment at the time, it may become a huge commitment later. Because life can change in an instant, any of the following can derail your volunteer’s ability to adopt your pets upon your passing:

  • A change in his or her financial circumstances
  • A change in his or her health
  • A change in his or her ability to fulfill the responsibility

Further, as your pets age, the amount of care they need—and the cost of providing it—generally increases, which does not inspire confidence in the casual approach to addressing your pets’ future.

Your Pet Trust

A pet trust offers all the following reassurances when it comes to the pets that a person cares about and wants to continue providing for in the future:

  • A pet trust can assign custody of pets to someone the pet owner trusts
  • A pet trust can also name a backup custodian (or custodians) who can step in to serve as the pets’ caregiver in the event that the first assignee is unable to do so
  • A pet trust can allocate funds that allow pets to continue receiving the same level of care that the pet owner had always provided

The funds that a pet owner includes in the pet trust will be managed and disbursed by its trustee, who can be the same person the pet owner names as the pets’ care provider. The cost of caring for pets can be considerable, but addressing the issue in a trust helps to ensure that the person trusted to take over as the pets’ loving owner will be prepared to do so. Colorado allows the assets that a person includes in his or her trust to transfer to an alternate trustee if the need should arise during the pets’ lifetimes. Further, if there are any funds remaining in the trust when the last pet passes, they will be distributed as specified in the trust. If that information is not included in the trust, the funds will be distributed according to Colorado’s laws of intestacy, as guided by the person’s will—if it addresses this distribution.

Considerations

Pets require love, care, and attention, which means that a pet owner should choose someone to take over as caregiver who shares the pet owner’s values and understands his or her wishes as they relate to the pets. The cost associated with caring for a pet over time can be considerable, so a trust should address all the following eventualities:

  • Pet food
  • Pet supplies
  • Regular veterinary care and care related to any healthcare concerns that arise
  • Medications
  • Surgical care and beyond for unforeseen medical emergencies

When you take a big-picture approach, you help to ensure that your pets are set up for the kind of care that you would provide if you could.

Speak with an Experienced Colorado Estate Planning Attorney Today

The matter of your pets and your estate plan is a primary concern that is unlikely to receive the attention it deserves unless you address the matter directly. Colorado allows you to include your pets in your estate plan through the inclusion of a pet trust, and the experienced estate planning attorneys at Johnson Law Group in Colorado understand how important the matter is to you and are ready to help. If you are ready to make a plan for your pets, consider texting (720) 730-4558 or calling (720) 463-4333 to schedule a consultation.

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