No matter how much you love your pets and feel they are “part of the family,” they are generally seen as property by the Georgia probate courts, including those in Cobb County, Fulton County and other metro Atlanta probate courts and are therefore treated accordingly. This can cause some concern for pet owners who want to ensure their pets are well-cared-for and able to transition as smoothly as possible after the death or incapacitation of an owner.
One option which many Georgia pet owners are now exercising is to create a Georgia pet trust. This type of trust is used to protect the pet in case you are unable to do so. The trust will likely specify your chosen pet guardian, which can either be an individual or an organization. This entity will be responsible for taking care of the pet either until the owner is able to do so again or permanently, depending upon the situation. In the latter case, it may even be necessary for the entity to arrange to officially adopt the pet.
Guidelines When Choosing a Pet Guardian In Atlanta
For best protection, the guardian should be approached in advance to ensure he/she/it is willing and able to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet in your absence. This is not the kind of thing you want sprung on a person unexpectedly, especially when your ultimate goal is to ensure the safety and comfort of your pet.
It’s a good practice to provide the named guardian with a copy of the trust, which provides legal justification for him or her to take the pet. This can be especially important if you face an unexpected catastrophic event of some type. Police are unlikely to allow a friend or neighbor to remove your “property” from your home while you are incapacitated, which means your pet may be left in the house alone for any length of time. Having the pet trust means the guardian is permitted to take care of the pet immediately.
Funding the Pet Trust
There are some good arguments for providing at least some funding for the pet trust, either through an amount of money set aside or as a beneficiary of an insurance policy or some sort of account. It is reasonable to provide for food and veterinary costs for the expected duration of the pet’s life. Of course, the choice of whether or not to fund the trust is up to you, and many guardians are perfectly willing to take on the financial aspects of caring for your pet. If someone refuses to be your pet’s guardian unless they are given something substantial for themselves, it may be a good idea to reconsider your choice and ensure you are a choosing a pet guardian in Atlanta who truly has your beloved pet’s best interests at heart.
By Steve Worrall, Atlanta, Georgia estate planning attorney
As an Atlanta and Marietta estate planning attorney, I know Generation Y has a lot to think about…starting their careers, buying their first home, starting a family. All of these things are beginnings, so it’s a rare day when someone in this generation wants to think about The End. But there are 4 reasons that they might need to…
A lot of people think that youth is an excuse for putting off doing a will or trust. But estate planning is not just about planning for your death. It is also prepares you in the event you experience an incapacitating injury and are unable to make your own financial or medical decisions. While the odds are certainly in your favor that you will not need an estate plan, you should still consider these four scenarios…
1. You need a plan in the event that you become disabled or incapacitated.
Unfortunately tragedies happen every day. And you are not immune to them because you are young. If something happens to you and you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your own financial, legal, and medical affairs you’ll need to make sure that there are basic documents in place such as a medical directive, power of attorney and HIPAA authorization so someone can.
2. You need to pass your assets.
You might be asking, “What assets?” Even if you do not yet own your own home, you need to consider IRAs, retirement accounts and life insurance accounts offered through your employer. You need to make sure that beneficiaries are named in the right way to make sure that the people you want to leave them to get maximum benefit.
3. You need to name guardians for your kids.
If you have children, you simply must name guardians. You should be the one who decides who will raise them if you are no longer around. You do not want this decision left to squabbling relatives or to a court system who doesn’t know you or your child.
4. You need to plan for your pets.
If you have a pet, chances are they are a big part of your life. They are totally devoted to you and also totally dependent on you. Have you stopped to think what might happen to them if something were to happen to you? If you want to make sure your companion is cared for if the unexpected happens, you could choose to put together a plan for their continued care. The plan may include directions about feeding, medical care and other needs along with funds necessary to provide for your pet’s support and to compensate the caretaker.
The scenarios above are just a few to consider when deciding if you need a will or trust. If you are in the Atlanta area, I encourage you to talk with an Atlanta and Marietta wills and trusts lawyer. Only then will you have the peace of mind of knowing that you are fully protected.