So many Americans are pet owners, and estate lawyers in Atlanta have various ways of helping their clients to care for these pets. To be honest, it’s pretty common to overlook the potential need to plan for a pet after your death, but it’s something that more and more people are recognizing as an integral part of their own estate planning process. Most of the time, a person just assumes that their children or a friend will simply take the pet into their home, but that may be an overly-optimistic plan. Instead, it might make better sense for pet owners to spend a little time with the estate planning lawyer to put plans in place for the animal’s long-term care and happiness. The methods for setting up this kind of plan can vary. You and your attorney may feel that it’s reasonable to simply outline your wishes in the will. On the other hand, you may prefer to create an actual “pet trust” that not only lays out your wishes but also funds them.
Choose a Guardian
Probably the most important aspect of estate planning for pets is to choose a guardian. This is the person or people who will care for your companion animal if you die or become incapacitated. It’s really important to talk to this person in advance and ensure that he or she is willing to take on the responsibility. You wouldn’t want to leave your sweet pet to someone who resented it or didn’t care for it properly. One approach is to create a reciprocal agreement with a friend in which you both agree to take the other’s pet should the need arise. If you don’t have an actual person in mind to become your pet’s guardian, you might want to contact the local humane society. Some of them have entire programs in place to help your pet get adopted into a good home after your death. To take advantage of these kinds of programs, you need to enroll in advance, so talk to your estate planning lawyer to find out what kinds of organizations might offer these services in Atlanta.
Paying for the Pet
As mentioned above, you may choose to leave money in a pet trust in order to care for the needs of your pet. This money would be used for food, bedding, toys, and vet services, as you estimate they would be needed for the lifespan of your animal. Some pet owners also choose to include a small stipend for the person who takes on the responsibility of caring for the animal. This is a personal decision, however, and not a necessity. Finally, make sure that your friends and family are aware of your plans for the pet. That way, the animal can get to his or her new home right away, without either being left alone or ending up in a different family than you intended. If you’d like more information on the importance of planning for your pet in the event of your death or incapacity, please ask for our pet planning brochure at GeorgiaPetTrust.com.
Residents of Georgia often find themselves procrastinating, even if they know the importance of meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer. The whole subject just seems so complicated, and there are certainly more enjoyable ways to spend one’s time then pondering death and taxes. The fact that things can be really confusing seems to give us all the encouragement we need to just tell ourselves that we’ll take care of the estate planning stuff “later.”
Of course, you know what I’m going to say next! You never know when “later” is going to make an appearance, and if you’re not set up in advance, all the legal advice about wills and trusts in the world won’t be of any help. Yes, this truly is something you need to do in advance. Perhaps demystifying some of the terms involved with wills and trusts will give you the confidence you need to take the next step.
Will vs. Living Will
Most people probably get that “will” and “living will” are two different things, but a whole lot of them couldn’t actually tell you what exactly makes them different. The term “will” is likely most familiar, as we’ve all seen them discussed on TV and in the movies. It’s that document that is used to tell the courts what should be done with a person’s assets after he or she dies.
In the movies, there’s usually a dramatic reading of the will with close-ups of shocked widows and angry siblings who have been unceremoniously cut out of the family fortune. While wills and trusts lawyers in Georgia do see their share of hurt feelings and miscommunications, things are rarely as dramatic as they are on the big (or small) screen.
While a will is used after death, a living will is not. It’s actually a document that includes a variety of instructions to be followed if you are alive but unable to speak for yourself for some reason. This is usually referred to as being “incapacitated.” You could be too ill to communicate, in a coma due to an accident, or some other variant that renders you unable to let doctors and others know what your wishes are regarding healthcare and other major decisions.
Trust vs. Living Trust
You may see a bit of a pattern here. A trust is generally used as a way to disperse assets after the owner has passed away. A trustee is put in charge of following very specific instructions that have been put in place to direct how the money and other assets in the trust are to be used.
A living trust, on the other hand, is used to protect many different kinds of assets during the owner’s lifetime. A Georgia wills and trusts lawyer may recommend a living trust for many different reasons. For example, this kind of trust can be used to allow the individual to stay in his or her home while transferring ownership.
Each of these types of wills and trusts is something that should be discussed with a knowledgeable attorney in the state where you reside, as laws will differ throughout the country.
We are here to answer your questions and to help you create a plan to make things easier on your loved ones if the unthinkable happens to you. Please call us at 770-425-6060 and we’ll give you a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, valued at $750, for NO CHARGE. This session will educate you so you can make the best decisions for your family.