This weekend we held our second estate planning seminar, with a focus on including pets in your arrangements. We’ve been blessed to work with local Attorney Rachel Thiessen, who specializes in estate planning and adoption. Attorney Thiessen takes a refreshing approach to working with clients. Her goal is to get to know you, so your estate plan truly reflects what you need. She works under a fixed fee schedule, so there are no surprises about money. She is very knowledgeable about the legal tactics to protect not only your assets, but also the intangible, irreplaceable aspects of your legacy.
During the seminar, I was tweeting some important points while Rachel was talking. I’d like to share them with you so you can start to think about your own plan.
- There are two time frames to consider when planning for your pets – the immediate future, and longer term. If something sudden and unexpected happens to you, who will you designate to enter your home and ensure your pets receive care? Keep in mind that a will only comes into play following a death, and not if a person is incapacitated due to injury or illness. Also remember that a will is only read days later, and that pets cannot go without care for that long.
- Attorney Thiessen suggests you carry an ID card in your wallet, naming your pets and the person you have designated as their caregiver, in the event something sudden happens to you. Also include the caregiver’s contact information. The ID card is part of the estate planning package she offers (and she suggests it for both human and furry children).
- A will is not enforceable. That is, there is no way to enforce that the money you designate for your pets will actually be spent on them.
- Money designated for pets in a will cannot be distributed over time; it’s disbursed in a lump sum. Will your pet’s caregiver be a good steward of that money over time?
- Many states now have pet trust statutes, including Pennsylvania. A pet trust is a legally enforceable document in which you name a caregiver and trustee for your pet. The caregiver and trustee may be the same person, although Attorney Thiessen advises separate people for better checks and balances.
- A pet trust also includes details such as feeding, grooming, types of treats, medical care, pet sitting, exercise, reimbursement, end of life wishes, and any other areas you wish to address.
It’s really hard to think about planning for a time when we won’t be here. The most important reason to plan now is to make sure your loved ones, including your pets, receive the best possible care. Here’s the best news: if you have additional questions and would like to ask them of Attorney Thiessen in person, we have another estate planning seminar coming up on Saturday 4/26/14! Click here to sign up and reserve your seat! If you can’t make the next seminar and would like to ask a question, post a comment and I’ll follow up with Rachel.