Estate Planning and Probate

Can Your Dog Inherit Your Estate? The Truth About Pet Trusts

Pets inheriting money may seem ridiculous at first glance – a result of hotel heiresses with funds to squander. What is Rover going to do with thousands of dollars, fill a shopping cart with dog treats and tennis balls? Your pet may not be able to spend the money, but it can help them get the care you desire. In North Carolina, pets are considered personal property. Their status as property precludes pets from legally inheriting money, yet pet owners can still provide for their loved ones. When a person passes away, if their animals are not taken in by a caretaker, the pets will go to an animal shelter. The creation of a pet trust can dictate who will be entrusted with the pet and how much money will be provided for its care.

When creating a pet trust, there are many factors to take into consideration. Your animal’s age and projected lifespan are crucial components. You will want to estimate how many years of care they will require in order to calculate their needs. Food, shelter, veterinarian care, and emergencies that may arise should all be considered. For a dog or a cat, estate attorney Andrew Bullard believes one thousand dollars per year should be sufficient, while a horse will need substantially more. It is important to name a caregiver who will be able to take on your pet, and list people as successors in the event that the person cannot care for the pet when the time comes.

While providing for an animal in your will may seem like an easier answer than the creation of a pet trust, the animal will have to wait for the will to go through probate in North Carolina before receiving funds. This could take a year, while a pet trust can begin assisting your animal immediately. The funds placed into a pet trust will be managed by the trustee you appoint for your animal companion. You may only entrust a reasonable amount for the animal’s care- any exorbitant amount will be placed back into your estate by the government.

With over 7 million animals entering shelters each year, there is a valid argument for the creation of a pet trust. An estate attorney can explain your options to you and help you can continue to care for your pet long after you are gone.

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