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Head off trust and estate litigation matters by including pets

There are many details that need to be considered when one decides to write up formal estate plans. While there are no absolute guarantees, being as specific as possible can help deflect trust and estate litigation matters. New York residents may not have thought about the possibility of including pets in these plans.

Americans are attached to their furry companions and often view them as important members of their families. This makes it even more important to ensure that they are provided for if they survive their owners. Without a specific trust or other means set-up for the animal's future welfare, these beloved companions are often viewed as personal property to be dispensed with in the manner deemed most appropriate. However, if they are included in the estate plans, then it is much more likely that they will go to the home that the owner desired.

When setting up a trust for an animal, other than naming the individual who will take over the care of the pet, it is important to ensure that the trust is well-funded for the remaining life span of the animal. Including the expected expenses as well as additional funds to cover old-age-related veterinary bills will help ease any financial strain on the new owner. It is recommended that a Letter of Final Wishes be included with any estate planning documents so that the pets can be cared for immediately while the estate is being settled.

Including daily care instructions in this letter can assist the ones who are taking the pet in, even if only for the short-term. Unfortunately, in spite of one's best intentions, there could be challenges to any trust or will in the form of trust and estate litigation matters. New York families can help avoid this possibility by seeking the assistance of an attorney experienced in estate plans and determining what options are best for each family's unique circumstances.

Source: Forbes, "Estate planning: Include your pets!", Rob Clarfeld, March 30, 2017

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