John C. Lackatos, P.C.
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Including dogs in your estate planning

When Pennsylvania pet owners are planning the distribution of their assets prior to their death, many do not take their dogs into account. Canines tend to have significantly shorter life spans than humans, so it is easy to assume that Fido will pass away before you do.

However, estate planners should always prepare for the unexpected. When you die, you do not want your pet to go back to a risky shelter or be inherited by someone who does not want to take care of them. There are many options to consider when planning for your dog’s life after your death, and it is crucial that you are aware of all of them to find the best path for your pet.

Find a worthy successor

You cannot just randomly choose someone from your friends or family to serve as your pooch’s caretaker. This person should be willing to feed, walk and provide for your pet the same way you did. You should make a list of potential candidates that you think would be great dog owners and ask them if they would want to look after Snoopy if something were to happen to you.

If you have a difficult time finding a new owner, Pennsylvania offers multiple programs to help your dog find a loving caretaker once you are gone. These include websites designed to transfer your pet to a new home or local animal rescues that helps canines bypass the shelter. The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSCPA) also has a surrender program for the state’s largest no-kill shelter and connections to similar resources.

Establishing a trust

Once you have found the right person to look after your dog, the next step is to create a pet trust. While you can include your pets in a will, a trust is better for both short and long-term planning. Pennsylvania’s pet trust law ensures that the trust will last as long as your dog is alive.

With a trust, your dog’s ownership can transfer quickly after your death with fewer legal issues that often arise in will disputes. You can place a set amount of money for the new owner to receive designed for pet care and give them specific instructions on your dog’s preferences. In addition, the trust can go into effect while you are still alive but unable to take care of your dog.

It is important to get the right help in forming this trust and making sure that your dog will find the right home after your passing. Even when you are gone, your dog should not be devoid of someone that can love and provide for them as much as you did.

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