Wills and trust attorneys in Atlanta see a variety of situations both before and after our clients pass away.  While family bickering and grief are certainly a darker aspect to what we do, there is another situation that often brings about difficulty.  What happens to a pet when you pass away?

This isn’t something that every will and trust lawyer in Atlanta thinks to mention, but it is something worth considering.  In an ideal world, a family member or good friend would willingly take in your pet and love it as his or her own.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t always the case.  Instead of relying on this best-case scenario, you may want to consider making some decisions ahead of time to ensure that your pet is cared for as you would prefer.

Not only can an attorney in Atlanta incorporate your pet into your will or trust, but if you wish, a special trust (a Pet Trust) can be set up.  Things don’t necessarily need to be this elaborate, but it is something that many clients choose.  Whether creating a trust or not, you will want to determine who will be your pet’s guardian should you die or become otherwise incapacitated.

A word to the wise:  Make sure that the person or organization you name as guardian is aware of this and has agreed to the role!

Some humane societies and SPCAs are willing to become your pet’s guardian if you do not have an individual that is able to do so.  It’s important to note, however, that you still need to make this arrangement official.  Check out the web sites for (or call) animal organizations in Atlanta to see who offers such services.

For example, the SPCA’s of some states have a “Guardian Angel Future Care Program.”  Pet owners can enroll in the program and supply important information about their pets, including health records and even information about his or her daily schedule, preferences, etc.  The SPCA then works to match your pet with the best possible adoptive family.

They also offer some good advice when it comes to including your pet in your estate planning:

  • Make sure the guardian you choose has the same values as you do.
  • Microchip your pets and put IDs on their collars so they can be returned if they get lost.
  • Leave only a reasonable amount of money for the care of a pet, as larger amounts are more likely to be contested and to cause difficulty for the person designated to manage the fund.
  • Consider a situation where you and someone else have a reciprocal agreement.  If you are killed or incapacitated, they will take your pets.  If the other person is killed or incapacitated, you will take theirs.
  • Have your estate planning lawyer include your wishes in the will and make them known to family members and the executor when the will is drafted.

If you would like more information about using estate planning tools such as wills and trusts to ensure your pets are protected if something happens to you, please contact our Atlanta wills and trusts attorney at 770.425.6060 to schedule a complimentary planning session with the mention of this article.

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