Why leaving your pet to a child could be a tragic mistake

On Behalf of | Jan 8, 2021 | Firm News

Most people creating an estate plan hope to leave their children, grandchildren and other family members most of their property. It is also a common practice for people to leave their pets or companion animals to family members as well.

While it is possible to treat an animal like property and directly bequeath it to someone, doing so could be a major mistake. You likely chose a family member that you expected would care for your pet and make them part of their family. However, pets are expensive, and not everyone enjoys their companionship.

If you leave your pet to someone as an asset in your will, they might just choose to have your animal euthanized or drop it off at the local animal shelter because they don’t want to have to care for it.

How can you ensure that your pet lives a happy life without you?

Some people will try to motivate their family members to care for their pets by leaving property to the animal. Doing that can be a dangerous and complicated mistake.

First of all, animals don’t usually have the right to own property. Anyone who took the animal would likely assume control over the property you leave for the animal. That might only further incentivize the euthanization of your pet to eliminate any legal barriers between your family member and ownership of those assets.

If you could potentially outlive your pet, creating a pet trust is likely the safest way to ensure that your animal has a good life even after you die.

A pet trust gives you control and creates oversight

It is often best to structure a pet trust so that the person caring for the animal is not the trustee with access to the funds. Naming one child to care for the animal and another child to oversee the trust can be a good decision. That way, there is a second person who can ensure that your pet receives the care and love you wished for when creating the estate plan.

A pet trust can let you limit how people use assets and will give you the opportunity to name a secondary beneficiary when your beloved pet eventually dies of old age or medical issues. Integrating a pet trust into your estate plan now will give you the comfort of knowing that your closest companion will have protection even when you die.