If I don't have any kids and want to leave all of my worldly possessions to my dog, how would I do it?

By Amy Fontinelle AAA
A:

A 1993 law, Section 2-907 of the Uniform Probate Code, changed the treatment of a deceased individual's pet from that of a piece of property to an entity that requires care. As a result, it is possible to ensure that your pets will be provided for after you pass away, not just by willing them to a trusted friend or relative, but through the establishment of a trust.
Pet trusts can establish a way to care for your pet after you die; they can also establish a way to care for your pet if you become unable to do so while you are still alive. The former is called a testamentary trust; the latter is called an inter-vivos trust.

Pet trust laws vary by state, and it's essential to understand these laws when providing for your pet. If you don't have a legal background, it might make sense to hire an attorney familiar with making legal provisions to care for pets after the owner's death. Both types of trusts establish who will care for your pet. They also appoint a trustee whose job is to ensure that your designated caretaker is actually caring for your pet.

A relative could challenge your pet trust in court, and if he or she wins the case, your pet may receive a smaller trust amount and your relative may receive the difference. You can prevent this outcome by paying for a pet retirement home while you are still alive or providing for your pet to receive care through an animal sanctuary. You can also attach a piece of real estate that you own to your pets, and provide for a caretaker to live rent-free on the requirement that he or she care for your animals. Another limitation of pet trusts is that they expire 21 years after your death, so if your pet's expected lifespan is longer than this, it may be difficult to ensure that they receive the care you desire.

Even if you don't want to leave your entire estate to your pet, you will probably want to make some provisions for its care after your incapacitation or death. Without a specific legal document that provides for your pet, the worst-case scenario is that it could be abandoned or taken to an animal shelter and put to sleep. Simply willing your pet to a trusted friend or relative, with contingent beneficiaries in case that friend or relative's death precedes yours, can be enough to ensure that your pet will remain happy and healthy when you are no longer able to care for him or her. However, if your goal is to leave your entire estate to your pet, consult an attorney who can help you establish a pet trust.

RELATED FAQS

  1. What's the difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner?

    Seeking professional advice from a financial advisor may involve asking for financial help from a certified financial planner, ...
  2. What effect will a prenuptial agreement have on a 401(k)?

    Courts have ruled that a prenuptial agreement for qualified plan (including 401(k)) assets is invalid. The logic is that ...
  3. What is a good book on creating a trust that would qualify as the beneficiary for ...

    "Life And Death Planning For Retirement Benefits" has all you need and more. If you read this book, you won't need any luck.To ...
  4. Can 529 plans be used to transfer wealth to other family members if the original ...

    Yes, the 529 plan (also known as a "qualified tuition program") allows you to distribute and roll over funds from one 529 ...
RELATED TERMS
  1. Laughing Heir

    A distant relative who has inheritance rights despite not having ...
  2. Ultimogeniture

    A system of inheritance whereby the youngest son gains possession ...
  3. Crummey Trust

    An estate planning technique that can be employed to take advantage ...
  4. Gift Letter

    Written correspondence to a lender stating that money received ...
  5. Beneficial Interest

    The right to receive benefits on assets held by another party. ...
  6. Dynasty Trust

    Long-term trusts created to pass wealth from generation to generation ...
Related Articles
  1. A new Supreme Court ruling has some financial advisors rushing to set up trusts to help protect inherited IRAs. Is that necessary?
    Investing Basics

    How Advisors Can Protect Inherited IRAs

  2. Personal Finance

    Top 10 Money Mistakes New Parents Make

  3. Home & Auto

    Why Your Will Should Name Designated ...

  4. Retirement

    Should You Convert Your IRA?

  5. Taxes

    10 Sources Of Nontaxable Income

Trading Center