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McClellan Legal LLC Estate Planning & Tax Assessment Blog

Friday, July 12, 2019

Who's Taking Care of Your Pet?

All pet owners want to make sure that their pets receive the best care no matter what. But what happens to pets when the owner dies? With some planning, you may be able to decide what happens to your pet and who will be the caretaker. The following are a few choices for you to consider:

  1. Pet Trusts

    Pennsylvania gives its citizens the option to set up a trust to care for their pets that remains active until the death of the animal. A pet trust would allow the owner to choose who cares for the pet and give that person the funds to do so. Creating a pet trust may be necessary for many pet owners as the pets would otherwise be treated like personal property and would therefore not be eligible to receive a portion of your estate for their care.

    Pet trusts can be created through your Will that will be affective after you pass, or you may create a living pet trust that is funded while you are alive. A living pet trust is important if you lack the full capacity to care for your pet while you are alive. A major difference between a pet trust created in your Will and a living pet trust is when the caretaker will receive funds. In your Will, the caretaker will not receive funds until the Will has been probated. If your pet needs medical care that your caregiver cannot provide, then there may be an issue. Your living pet trust, however, will have funding immediately after it is signed.

    Your pet trust should either name a trustee to manage the trust’s assets and care for your pet or name two or more people to handle these two key roles. Remember to update your trust if the trustee and/or caregiver is no longer willing or capable to fulfill these duties.

  2. Specific Instructions

    Another option is to leave specific instructions regarding the care of your pets, such as the day-to-day care, like your pet’s preferred food, or medical care. You can still leave money with the pet’s caretaker to help with any food or medical bills without a pet trust. However, the caretaker will not be bound to your instructions and you will not be able to control that person’s decisions. That person may spend the money on other things or even give your pet away.

  3. Foundations that Take Pets

    You may want to leave your pet with a foundation that accepts pets after the owners die. You should research a foundation in your area that fits your needs. Keep in mind that your pet may be in a confined area for an indeterminate amount of time, as there is no guarantee that your pet will be adopted or fostered. Some foundations may take your pet for short-term care until your executor finds a suitable home or until the Will is probated, if the funds were provided in the will instead of a pet away. 

You may want to leave your pet with a foundation that accepts pets after the owners die. You should research a foundation in your area that fits your needs. Keep in mind that your pet may be in a confined area for an indeterminate amount of time, as there is no guarantee that your pet will be adopted or fostered. Some foundations may take your pet for short-term care until your executor finds a suitable home or until the Will is probated, if the funds were provided in the will instead of a pet trust.

Regardless of which option you chose, may sure you choose the option that will make your pet the most comfortable. If you decide to name someone to care for your pet, be sure that this is the best person to care for your pet. If this person is no longer able to care for your pet, be sure to update your documents to reflect the change of caretaker.

It will be my pleasure to discuss how we can incorporate your pets into your estate plan. You may call our office at 610-444-5552 and choose line one for estate planning.


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McClellan Legal LLC is located in Kennett Square and serves clients throughout the areas of Avondale, Chadds Ford, Coatesville, Downingtown, Landenberg, Oxford, Phoenixville, Pottstown, West Chester, & West Grove.



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| Phone: 610-444-5552

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