What happens to my pets when I pass away?
In the eyes of the law, pets are treated the same way as property. Therefore, the judge or the executor of your estate must often make the critical decisions as to who will take care of your pets.
But probate can take months, even years. And even the most well-meaning family members may not be able to follow through in caring properly for a surviving pet. For reasons as diverse as allergies, work schedules, conflicts with other pets and apartment restrictions, the informal vows made by friends and family to care for your pets often fail.
Many states have now passed legislation permitting pet trusts, which may be created through a Last Will and Testament. Unfortunately, the statutory provisions are often bare-bones, and they do not permit the pet owner to leave any instructions regarding the pet's care. Nor do they allow the pet owner to direct how funds should be spent. And there's always the possibility that the pet trust provision could be held up by the court due to a completely unrelated matter in the Last Will, which would only further delay the final settlement. Who will care for the pet or take it for a walk in the interim?
The other issue with statutory pet trust provisions in a Will is that they do not provide for the possibility that the pet owner may become incapacitated or unable to adequately care for the animal. A pet owner can avoid this issue with a Pet Protection Agreement(R) or a traditional pet trust, since those documents can be acted upon even if the pet owner is still alive.