People tend to dismiss the idea of creating an estate plan if they don’t have complex assets or divisive family relationships. Often, they assume that the state laws will suffice when it comes to determining what should happen to their property, debts, and other end-of-life matters.
While that may be true for some people, such an oversimplification of estate planning leaves out critical — if overlooked — details. For instance, if you have pets, estate planning can be crucial for a few reasons.
- It protects them from abuse or neglect. With an estate plan, you can dictate who should take care of your animal companion if you cannot do so yourself. This avoids the risk of no one taking in your pet, which can happen when others do not know about your pet or when everyone assumes someone else will take the animal in. It can also prevent an abusive or unfit party from keeping your pet.
- It can ensure they get the care they need. As part of your estate plan, you can set up a pet trust or otherwise set aside funds specifically for your pet’s care. This can cover shelter, food, and medical care for the pet. You can also leave extra funds for the individual caregiver or organization caring for your pet as recognition of the role they will play.
- It can alleviate difficult decisions for loved ones. Unless you make plans for your pet, others may be forced to make some difficult decisions. For instance, you may want your young neighbor who always came to play with your dog or cat to take ownership. But without saying as much in an estate plan, your family may decide the only option is to put the animal up for adoption or relocate it to a less desirable living situation.
Keep in mind that planning for your pets is just one goal that an estate plan can accomplish. You can also use planning documents to assign legal decision-making rights, allocate property for charitable organizations, and structure your gifts in such a way that it protects your loved ones from unexpected financial demands.
As you can see, you do not need to have significant wealth or complicated family relationships to benefit from creating an estate plan. You just need something you care about and want to protect.