Pets are family. Since they are included in so many other aspects of your life, why shouldn’t they be included in your estate plan? My law firm works with clients who wish to include provisions in their estate plans to ensure their pets are well cared for upon their deaths. We create pet trusts, and also assist clients who choose to distribute funds to a friend or family member with the request that the funds be used for the care of their pet.
Clients can struggle with deciding how much money is sufficient to ensure that a pet’s lifetime needs will be fully met. The amount of money needed can vary dramatically depending on a variety of factors including the type of pet, age of the pet, the pet’s medical condition, and the level of care that a client chooses to provide. I noted recently that The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) came up with a helpful chart to help pet owners estimate these costs. As you can see, the chart provides estimated annual costs for pet care based on the type of pet, reocurring “annual” costs such as food and cat litter, capital costs such as a crate or an aquarium, and special costs such as grooming. This chart provides a great starting point for people who are trying to figure how much money to allocate for a pet’s care in their estate planning documents. In addition to the chart’s information, if you track your expenses in personal financial software, you may be able to look back and determine your average annual expenses related to pet care.
After examining this chart and your own financial documents and determining what types of costs might apply to your pet, you can get a good idea for the annual estimated costs of care. The next factor to consider is the pet’s age, life expectancy and general health. Similar to medical care for humans, the cost of veterinary care tends to increase as a pet ages. Even if you have purchased health insurance for your pet, keep in mind that the policy may not cover all health-related events. You will likely want to make sure you have allocated sufficient funds in your estate plan to cover future health-related issues, and also to ensure your pet’s basic needs are covered if your pet lives a few years beyond its standard life expectancy.
Need help in including your pet in your estate planning? We’ll be happy to work with you to find solutions.