Ron Wilson 2013-10-25 12:13:30
Pet Planning – It Is That Important “It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them and every new dog that comes into my life gives me a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will become dog and I will become as generous and loving as they are!” -Anonymous Tell me, does this ode resonate with you? It does me and it probably does with most of the 70 million American households that own a pet. Yet, the majority of these owners have not planned for their pets in the event of incapacity or a demise; therefore essential that you and I, as attorneys, assist our clients with planning for pets. Too oft en, we get wrapped up in the tax and probate issues and we forget about the furry members of the family. As a part of the estate planning consultation, we should inquire as to whether pets need to be considered, and if so, there are three areas that we need to cover with them: power of attorney, the demise of the client and finally the demise of the pet. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY This document can spell out who is to care for the pet in the event of incapacity, create payment for daily needs and payment to the caretaker, seek out a nursing facility for the client that will allow animals, provide for an alternate caretaker and other issues relevant to the specific pet. Aft er signing, have the client prepare an animal notification card that can easily be found in the event of an emergency. DEMISE OF THE CLIENT When a client passes away, guidelines need to be in place for the care of the pet. Arizona joins with approximately 40 other states in recognizing some form of pet trusts. In a pet trust, the beneficiary is the caregiver, not the animal. The trustee can be a third party or the caregiver depending on the appropriateness of the parties. The trust should also state at least one alternate caregiver, and if no person is available to serve, name an organization such as The Arizona Humane Society. Be sure to provide in the trust for such things as grooming, pet insurance, boarding, caretaker fees, pet insurance, travel expenses and, of course, feeding costs and final expenses. The trust should also indicate the amount of funds to be set aside for the care of the animal. Covering a pet’s life expectancy is important and depends on the type of animal. Remember, a bird can live over 75 years. Some clients can’t decide how they are going to fund the trust or to what amount. I have gone so far as to recommend that the trust be a beneficiary of a life insurance policy when liquidity was otherwise unavailable. When dealing in this area, call on local animal groups to help you, whether it be an agency that works for the county such as Friends of Animal Care and Control, the local humane society or a local rescue group. They have been through the various issues that the client is facing many times and have come up with unique solutions. One can create separate pet trusts if necessary or create one trust for all the pets that the client may have. Generally, do not limit the trust to present pets. Provide for the demise of the pet or pets and set out the standard of living that is desired by the client for the pet or pets. The greatest challenge is outlining the caregiver duties and responsibilities with the key being flexibility. To assist in the care of a pet, include all pertinent information, the name, the species, the breed, the gender, the color, the registration, the medical or temperament concerns. Give direction regarding feeding and veterinarian records. Be aware of any special concerns that the family has in regards to the pet or pets. DEMISE OF THE PET The client has now taken the time to completely spell out their wishes for their pet. They have set aside funds and have expressed who they want to care for the pet once they are gone. There is one more step that needs to be done. In the trust, give clear and specific instructions as to who is to receive any funds that may be left over in the event of the pet’s death. This could be given to an animal organization or the caregiver. We, as a profession, owe a duty to the over 70 million pet owners not only call this area to their attention, but to suggest ideas. Remind your clients that doing nothing for one’s pet is never an option. Ronald G. Wilson is a partner at Morris, Hall and Kinghorn, PLLC. MHK focuses entirely on estate planning and the areas that compliment it. Wilson is an accredited estate planner from the National Association of Estate Planning Councils and a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys as well as a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Wilson has been active in the estate planning industry, serving as past president of the Arizona State Bar probate section and the Central Arizona Estate Planning Council. For more information call 602-249-1328 or visit www.morristrust.com. You can also follow us on Facebook.
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