Posted: February 8, 2010
Written by: Caroline Kiva
Research tells us that owning a pet can greatly increase longevity. It is estimated that over half of Canadian households own a pet. Pets no longer live outdoors, but have taken a spot on the family couch and sleep in our cozy beds at night. In fact, pet owners I know, have even asked a human member of the family to move over and make room for Fido. Pets are the children of the 21st Century!!!
This strong emotional connection to our beloved “children” begs the question: What happens to Fido when he outlives you?
Estate planning has gone to the dogs and cats….and fish….and birds….!!!
In the U.S., certain States have enacted legislation that allow pet owners to establish trusts for their pets. Canadian Law treats animals as property and as such, have no legal status as persons. Therefore, an individual cannot leave a legacy directly to the family pet. However, there is still hope for pet owners.
Pet owners can direct under their Wills, that their pet(s) be transferred to a family member or friend who is willing to care for Fido for the remainder of Fido’s life. If there is no such possible guardian, the Executor of the estate can be charged with the task of finding Fido a good home. In either case, a legacy may be provided to the person willing to care for your pet.
For simplicity, you may wish to provide for care and feeding instruction through a letter of wishes that may be left with your personal papers. This letter should include information about your pet’s veterinarian, who will have more detailed information on the health and care of your pet.
While a difference of opinion exists on the viability of trust planning for pets in Canada, more detailed provisions may be outlined in a Will, which are more akin to a Trust. The provisions may include naming a guardian and an alternate guardian, providing instruction for care and maintenance, and setting aside a fund to provide for the care of your pet. This type of provision may result in a delay in the winding up of your estate.
Though you may leave a legacy and strict instructions to the guardian, there is no real way to ensure that these instructions are being followed, nor is there any real way to enforce these instructions. While planning for your pet may be of key importance, a pet owner should always maintain reasonable expectations.
For further information, click here to contact an Estate Planning lawyer.