Critter Corner: Estate Planning for Your Pet

Dear Bebe,

I inherited a macaw from my deceased sister several years ago. My husband and I are in our 60s, but I know these birds can live long time and could be around a lot longer than us. I don’t know anyone personally who would want to take on the responsibility. What can we do legally to make sure that our feathered friend is taken care of when we’re gone?

Thanks,

Karen Boutmibird

Dear Karen,

Thank you for being a good pet parent and ensuring that your pet is cared for should something happen to you or your husband. As a cat, I have a soft spot for most animals (even birds and dogs). Too many of them meet unpleasant fates when their owners pass away or can no longer care for them. I understand and appreciate your concern.

Your estate planning can indeed include plans for your pet. One way to do this is with a pet trust. An experienced estate planning and elder law attorney such as Evan Farr can draft it for you, tailoring it to your and your pet’s needs.

Here’s how it works: You put money in the trust for your bird’s care. (Macaws as you know are really smart, but not smart enough to handle their own finances.) If you do not know anyone who would be willing to care for him, search the internet for “exotic bird sanctuaries.” Put sufficient funds in the trust to compensate the sanctuary as well as to provide for your pet’s food and veterinary care. You can also specify who should get any monies left in the trust when your bird passes on. One possibility is naming the sanctuary so they can use any monies left to care for other animals.

Another, more simple option, is simply leave your Macaw to the bird sanctuary, along with an outright donation of money to help offset the cost of care and feeding for your pet’s lifetime.

Hopefully you, your husband and your bird will have many more happy years together. While planning for your pet, don’t forget to plan for yourselves and your loved ones!

Hope this is helpful!

Bebe

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