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Estate Planning for Pet Owners

Nashville Lawyers Skilled in Crafting Wills and Trusts

Pets are like family to many people, so it is important that the right plans are in place so that they are protected upon their owner’s passing. There are a few decisions that need to be made, as well as protocols that need to be followed, in order to ensure that pets are treated properly. The Nashville estate planning attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC help pet owners explore which options are appropriate for their pet. We can make sure that the proper documents are executed and resources are provided. If you have questions or need legal guidance with estate planning as a pet owner, or any other matter, contact our office today to find out more about how we can help.

Estate Planning for Pet Owners

Animals may not own or inherit property, so naming a pet as a beneficiary of an estate is not an option. However, there are a few other possibilities available for pet owners to consider. Proper estate planning can ensure that a pet is left in the care of a trustworthy person or organization and that this person or entity has the resources to provide for the pet.

Pet owners may provide instructions regarding who should take care of their pets as well as how much money is to go to that person by including such stipulations in their wills. A will can also name a secondary caregiver if the first caregiver is unable or unwilling to accept the responsibilities. However, a will cannot require that the money left to a caretaker-beneficiary will be used solely for a pet’s care, since the funds are transferred to the bequeathed person outright, and the funds will be used as they see fit.

If a pet owner wishes to exercise more control over how their pet is treated, a pet trust may be utilized. Pet trusts allow executors to specify who will care for the pet, set aside money specifically for the pet’s care, and create a legal obligation imposed on that caretaker. If the named caretaker fails their obligation, a legal action can be brought. To create a valid pet trust, the document must contain the following items of information:

  • A list of which pets are to be included and governed by the trust;
  • A caretaker’s name;
  • The monetary amount to be left in the trust;
  • A description of how a pet should be treated;
  • The name of a person responsible for initiating court proceedings to enforce the trust’s terms; and
  • Instructions on how additional funds should be used upon a pet’s death.

In situations in which no friend, family member, or other person is available to act as a caretaker, pet owners can establish legacy arrangements with an organization that assumes responsibility for the animal. Some potential caretakers can include veterinary schools, programs associated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), or other private rescue organizations.

Owners can also simply come to an agreement with a friend or family member regarding the care for their pets after they pass. However, if for some reason there is a disagreement among relatives or friends as to a pet’s care, or if a party changes their mind, an informal agreement may not be sufficient. It is important to consider how flexible you want plans for your pet to be when determining which option serves your goals if you are involved in estate planning as a pet owner.

Contact a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer in Nashville or Beyond

If you need assistance in planning for your pet’s future or with addressing any other estate issue, the Nashville attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC offer seasoned and knowledgeable legal guidance. We also represent people who need an estate planning or probate attorney elsewhere in Williamson and Davidson Counties, including in Franklin, Belle Meade, Brentwood, and Cool Springs. You can contact us online or call us at 615-800-7096 to learn more about our services.