Pet Financial Provisions
now browsing by tag
Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing for your pets, including creating pet trusts. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice. It does not purport to be exhaustive.
Whether or not you call them your fur baby, our pets are more than animals for many of us. To many Canadians, they are beloved family members, providing companionship, joy, and comfort.
Because their lifespans tend to be much shorter than ours, we assume we will outlive our pets. However, that is not necessarily true. So, just as you meticulously plan for the well-being of your loved ones in your estate plans, it’s crucial not to overlook your furry or feathered friends.
If you are a pet owner, how can you include your pets in your estate plan? What are your options? That is what we will consider in this article.
The Legal Landscape in Ontario: Pets as Property
Under Canadian law, including in Ontario, pets are considered property, and as such, they lack the legal capacity to own or inherit assets. This classification presents unique challenges when explicitly leaving money or property directly to your pets in your will. However, this doesn’t imply a lack of options for securing their future.
There are three basic ways to ensure your pets are cared for after you’re gone:
- Designate a caretaker
- Designate an organization to act as a caretaker
- Set up a pet trust
Designating a Caretaker: Choosing Guardianship for Your Pet
Similar to appointing guardians for minors, identifying a trustworthy caregiver to care for the pets after you’re gone is crucial. Consider family members or close friends who share a bond with your pets and are both willing and capable of providing lifelong care. A heartfelt conversation with your chosen caretaker is essential to ensure they understand and accept this responsibility. While a primary caretaker is crucial, it’s wise to designate a backup in case your original caregiver is unable to care for your pet.
Additionally, consider charitable organizations or shelters specialized in pet care. For instance, most Humane Societies offer a pet stewardship program, assuming custody and finding loving homes for pets after their owners pass away.
Financial Provisions: Ensuring the Financial Security of Your Pet
To alleviate financial concerns associated with pet care, consider you should leave an amount of money to your pet guardian in your will. This fund can cover expenses like veterinary care, grooming, food, and any unforeseen medical treatments your pet might require.
How much should you leave for pet care? That depends. Consider how long your pet’s life is expected to be, what costs you are currently incurring and other factors.
Incapacity Planning: Securing Care During Your Lifetime
As we have noted before, you need more than a will. What happens if you become incapacitated and can no longer care for your pet? Trusts and powers of attorney can be instrumental in addressing your pet’s care in case of your incapacity. While pets can’t inherit funds directly, a trust can designate funds for your pet’s care, with conditions tied to the designated caretaker ensuring proper care.
Setting up a Pet Trust: Ensuring the Future Care of Your Pets
While various trusts can be drafted, establishing a trust for pets demands precision to ensure its legality and enforceability. As the legal landscape surrounding trusts for pets continues to evolve, three fundamental rules are worth mentioning.
Beneficiary Enforcement and Legal Standing
One crucial element of any trust is that there must be a beneficiary or trustee who can enforce the terms of the trust. Practically and legally speaking, pets obviously lack the capacity to enforce a trust.
Purpose and Charitable Intent
Trusts must serve a clear purpose or have identifiable beneficiaries unless their purpose is deemed charitable. For instance, trusts designed for research and support surrounding a specific disease are considered charitable in Ontario. However, trusts created solely for pets might not meet the criteria for charitable purposes under the law.
Lawful Conditions and Public Policy
A trust can make gifts conditional on specific actions, provided these conditions are lawful and do not conflict with public policy. Creating a pet trust that adheres to these rules involves designating specific beneficiaries. As part of your trust, you can include instructions for the care of your pets. Funds from the trust are allocated for the explicit purpose of caretaking.
Additionally, each trust requires a termination date, signaling the final distribution of the trust fund. In the case of a pet trust, the termination typically coincides with the death of the last surviving pet. Any trust funds left are distributed per the terms outlined in your will.
Creating an Estate Plan For Your Peace of Mind
Navigating the complexities of caring for every part of the family after you’re gone can be overwhelming. Seeking guidance from an experienced estate lawyer, such as the professionals at Beeksma Law, can streamline the process. An estate lawyer can help formalize legal arrangements, ensuring your directives concerning your pet’s care are documented, legally sound, and enforceable.
Incorporating your pets into your estate planning demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and happiness. Your furry friends hold a special place in your heart and deserve careful consideration in your plans for the future.
At Beeksma Law, our dedicated estate planning team understands the significance of including your pets in your estate plans. Contact us today for compassionate legal guidance to secure the future of your beloved pets.