Palm Springs Law Blog

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Supporting Your Companion Animals After You’re Gone

Studies have shown that companion animals help us to reduce stress and blood pressure, and allow us to live longer. They are the ones waiting by the door every time you return, only to greet you with unconditional affection. That is why although they are our companion animals, many of us consider them to be a member of the family. 

Unfortunately, the law does not yet share this sentiment. Under the law, companion animals are still considered to be a type of tangible personal property – no different than our car or our couch. So even though many courts are beginning to examine companion animal custody when it comes to divorce, if you do not plan for their future after you have passed, it will be left up to the court. 

There are two things that you must do if you want your companion animals to be cared for in the way you desire after your death. 

Designate a Caretaker 

If something happens to you, you will want someone else to care for your companion animals. This could be a direct relative such as a child or spouse, or it could also be another relative or friend. It is best that you speak with the individual that you would like to choose in order to ensure that they are okay with your plans. If you do not have someone whom you feel is the right person for the job, you may also want to choose a humane society or related charity. If it is your wish to have a charity look after your companion animals once you are gone, it is best that you help the charity by making a donation. This can help with expenses related to their care.

Write Down Your Wishes   

Also of great importance regarding estate planning for your companion animals is to ensure that you put your wishes in writing. There are three methods for doing so:

1. Will

If you trust someone to follow your wishes, it may be a good decision to put your wishes for your companion animals’ future in your Will. All it takes is a simple statement expressing that you want to leave your companion animals, who you will identify, to a named, specific person. Leaving money to that person for your animals’ care is also a good idea. But choose carefully, since the caretaker can do what they want with the money – and even decide to give the companion animals away.

2. Letter/Memorandum

If you do not have a lot of time, you may instead choose to write a letter or memorandum. The bottom line is that you need to get something written down. This is considered to be a separate legal document from any Will you have. The validity of your letter or memorandum will be determined according to the specific circumstances involved. 

3. Companion Animals Trust

The final option is to create a Companion Animals Trust, a legal document that sets aside an amount of money for the care of your companion animals after you have died. A Companion Animals Trust allows you are able to identify the companion animals and the caregiver, put money aside, and choose the type of care that you wish for your companion animals to receive. 

Unlike a Will, the caretaker must use the money as stated in the Trust. An assigned trustee is legally responsible for ensuring that the caretaker does so. Because it is possible that there may be a remainder of funds after your companion animals have died, you must name a remainder beneficiary.

Heritage Legal, PC Can Help

At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the love that you have for your companion animals and will help you to determine which option is right for you and your situation. With our help, you will be able to ensure that your companion animals are cared for as you desire after you have passed. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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