Your Pets: What happens to them if something happens to you?

I don’t know about your house, but at the Beck household, we’ve got some furry family members. Our dog, Belle, is part hound and mostly mutt. Then we’ve got two Siamese cats, Phineas and Ferb. They agree with each other in their disdain for Belle, but otherwise, it’s a happy family. I’m sure if you’ve got pets, they are valued and special family members as well.

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to your pets if you become incapacitated or die? It’s not easy to consider, I know, but making sure that our beloved animals are cared for is something that most pet owners would say they desire if they had thought about it. I think the reality is that most people have not thought about that, and even fewer people have actually made any plans for such an event.

Fortunately, there are some pretty straightforward steps that you can consider.

First, think about who would be a good caregiver for your pets if you became incapacitated and could no longer care for them. Talk with that person and gauge their willingness to look after your animals if needed. If they are agreeable, you can certainly let your loved ones know who will care for your pets if you can’t do it yourself.

Then, consider the financial impact of having someone else care for your pets. Right now, you are providing for the needs of your pets, but what happens if they are in the care of someone else? If your animals have medical issues and require constant care or special and expensive food, you may want to plan to set aside some funds for the animals care, as well as specifically authorizing your agent under your power of attorney to disburse funds for the care of your pets. Remember, that, generally speaking, the older our pets become, the more likely they are to have more medical needs, which usually translates into more expenses.

Thinking about a situation where you pass away is a little more complex, and for many people unpleasant. Ideally, you want to identify a person who can be an animal caretaker, and also a backup caretaker, and specifically plan to leave your animals in the care of such person in your Will. Again, here you want to consider the financial impact of that, especially if your animals require more expensive care. Also, consider the age of your pets, and remember that the older they become, the greater the likelihood that they will need more costly medical care. Of course, the number of pets you have will also influence how much money may be needed to care for them as well.

In Georgia, we have the ability to create a pet trust in your Will. This pet trust can set forth who is to be the caretaker, and also identify a backup caretaker, and can also allow you to set aside a certain amount of money from your estate for the care of such pets. A trustee can hold and manage the money, and then, once the pets decease, if there are any funds remaining in trust, the terms of the trust specify what happens to those funds. Another option instead of an actual pet trust is to simply leave a certain amount of money to the caretaker with the intention that be used as needed for the care and support of your pets, though there may be some risks with that approach.

What you can’t do under Georgia law, is actually leave assets to your pets directly. Under the law, animals are property and cannot be a beneficiary.

The good news is that this type of planning to care for your pets is not complicated, especially when you work with an experienced Georgia estate planning firm like ours.

To learn more about estate planning in Georgia, you can request a free guide to planning, no strings attached. Or, call us to discuss your situation and see if we can be of help. We’d be happy to speak with you and discuss your planning options.