Yes, you should put your pet in your will.
That’s according to Tracy Craig, an estate attorney with Massachusetts-based firm Mirick O’Connell writing on Money.
“No matter your emotional connection, the law considers pets to be tangible personal property, like a car, jewellery, or furniture,” she writes. “That’s one good reason to include your pets in your estate plan, lest they be left homeless or sent to a shelter if you die before they do.”
Craig goes on to explain that no, you probably shouldn’t write Fido’s name in as the beneficiary of your retirement assets. Instead, you should be making provisions for his care. Who will take care of the dog?
Or cat, or guinea pig, or horse.
Once you decide where your pet will go, it’s up to you to make sure they’re taken care of, financially. “To determine approximate costs, I recommend that my clients calculate their annual costs to care for the pet, and multiple that figure by the pet’s remaining life expectancy, plus add some extra for medical care as the pet ages,” Craig writes.
If you’re bequeathing fish, this might not be much money. But if you’ll leave behind someone more cost-intensive, like a horse — or if you’re planning to cover every conceivable expense for the rest of their lives — her care costs could add up. To make sure that money goes to her care and not wherever else her caretaker might like to spend it, Craig recommends setting up a trust — which Craig points out is more expensive and more involved than simply including your pet in your will and leaving money to its caretaker.
If this sounds like a pain, add it to the list.
Estate planning is one of those don’t-want-to-think-about-it chores, but just like amassing an emergency fund or contributing to a retirement account, it’s a personal finance must-do. Like those tasks, it’s something that, should you choose not to do it, can make you and your family very sorry later.
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