J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Inclusion of pets in wills becoming increasingly popular practice

Everyone has different wishes in regards to what they want to be carried out following death. Though death might not always be pleasant to think about, the assurance that people often receive when they draft a will or complete other estate planning documents in many cases makes up for the slightly uncomfortable feeling that sometimes comes with thinking of postmortem plans.

Everyone's estate planning goals may be different, but many share a common wish: that their pets are left with thousands of dollars as part of their wills. Some Florida residents may find this surprising, but it is not uncommon for people of all economic backgrounds to include their pets in their wills. In the past two years, the number of cat owners with financial provisions in their wills rose from 6% to 9%, while the number of dog owners with such provisions in their wills went from 5% to 9%.

Pet owners are not permitted to set up an arrangement in which pets directly receive money, as pets are considered property. However, it is possible to bequeath money to a designated caretaker. But, this designated caretaker is not legally obligated to use the money to benefit the pet. Accordingly, some people are choosing to set up pet trusts to ensure that their pets receive money following a person's departure.

Taking care of pets is just one of many commonly shared wishes people have in estate planning. As is illustrated when it comes to pets, drafting a will or trust is oftentimes not as simple as designating beneficiaries and walking away. In many cases, there are multiple ways to execute a will or trust. It becomes important, then, for anyone considering will execution to understand the options available so that they can begin planning the best course of action.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "More Americans Are Writing Their Pets Into Their Wills," Anne Tergesen, Jan. 12, 2014

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