Ways to Protect Your Pet Upon Death

By Joshua Berkley

In Kentucky, pets fall in the same category as your automobile, furniture, clothing, or other assets. This is despite the fact that our pets are beloved members of our family. It is useful to prepare ahead of time with the guidance of an attorney to make sure that your pet is taken care of if something should happen to you. 

The law firm of Berkley Oliver provides legal representation to clients in Shelbyville, Shelby County, and throughout Central Kentucky. Our practice focuses on estate planning, probate, and elder law.

Some useful suggestions to provide for your pet in the event of death are as follows:

Choose Someone You Trust

Usually, if a person dies while sharing a house with family, the ownership of one’s pets will be automatically passed on to those that they live with. This process is normally straightforward, so long as the family members agree to, and are happy to take on the responsibility. However, if there is no one living in the household, you will want to choose someone that you trust to take care of your pet if something should happen to you. This should ideally be someone who knows your pet well and would know how to take excellent care of your pet should something happen to you. It is also advisable to select a replacement caretaker in the event your primary choice is unavailable, or unwilling to take care of your pet.

Make a Will

Since pets are seen as property under Kentucky law, they are part of your estate, just like any other property, and can be included in your Will bequests. When you are creating your Will, you might want to decide ahead of time who you plan to designate as the individual(s) to care for your pet. You might also want to direct a sum of money in your Will to go toward the care of your pet. Keep in mind that if you leave a lump sum to the person who is going to take care of your pet without any instructions, you are not guaranteed what they will do with the money.  

Make a Trust

You might want to create specifically a Pet Trust, rather than a Will so that on your death, ownership of your pet is passed to the designated individual(s), who is the Trustee. A Trust would provide more specific details and outline your care expectations. Another advantage is that usually, the Trust will be effective immediately upon one’s death or incapacity. 

All 50 States, plus the District of Columbia recognize pet Trusts. The Trust will be valid until such time as the pet’s death, or the last pet to die in the case of more than one pet in the household. In addition, the money you have designated will pass at this time to the Trustee for the care of your pet.

Amount of Money

You might wish to leave a specific sum of money to the person who will be caring for your pet. It is advised that you do not leave too much money to your pet, or the Court might intervene if it is too excessive.

Letter of Intent

A Letter of Intent might want to be drafted to help guide a chosen caregiver as to how you would like your pet to be taken care of. Keep in mind that a Letter of Intent may not be enforceable in Court, but is merely useful to specify your written wishes for your pet.

Keep Documents Accessible

It is advisable to let an individual you trust know where they can locate your important documents in the event of death. This will ensure a smoother transition at the time of death, especially if you have a pet that will need to be taken care of immediately.

Contact Our Shelbyville Estate Planning Attorney Today

The above steps should be taken care of with the assistance of an attorney, especially if you are leaving instructions for your pet in a Will or Trust document. Keep in mind that laws governing pets will vary depending on the state that you reside in. Our attorneys will guide you through the process to ensure that your pet is cared for in the best possible manner. If you have any questions or want to understand your estate planning options, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author
Josh Berkley is an attorney and owner at Berkley Oliver PLLC who helps individuals implement plans to protect their assets and their loved ones. Josh focuses his practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law.  From assisting young parents in making a plan to provide for their children, to helping senior clients qualify for Medicaid, Josh works with clients to create estate plans and life plans tailored to each person’s specific goals. He also helps clients with a wide variety of important legal documents such Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate Designations, and Living Wills. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Josh here.