Wisconsin law views our horses and other pets/animals as property. Without written instructions of your wishes, no legal protections exist for your “property.” You cannot leave money or property directly to your animal(s), and informal arrangements are not legally enforceable.
What’s the solution?
Formally incorporate your four-legged family members into your estate plan!
Essential Estate Planning Documents
Regardless of your age or financial circumstances, everyone needs an estate plan. For the benefit of your loved ones, you should have at least the following basic estate planning documents in place:
· Will (does not avoid probate) or Living Trust (avoids probate)
· Property Power of Attorney
· Health Care Documents (Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA authorization)
· Personal Property Memorandum
· Funeral Planning (written instructions, Authorization for Final Disposition)
How can I incorporate my horses into my estate plan?
To ensure your horses receive proper care during any period of your incapacity, you can incorporate pet planning provisions into your Property Power of Attorney.
To ensure your horses receive proper care after your death, you can incorporate pet trusts and other pet planning provisions into your Will or Living Trust.
What are pet trusts?
Pet owners who live in Wisconsin can now easily incorporate pet trusts in their estate plans. These trusts are legally enforceable and will help your pet to get the care you expect.
What can be included in a pet trust?
· Identify the pet(s) that have coverage.
· Name a caretaker.
· Leave an amount of money to use for pet care.
· Describe how the process for pet care.
· Name a person to go to court and enforce the terms of the trust if necessary.
· State what should be done with any money that’s left over when the animal(s) die.
Advantages to Using a Pet Trust
Using a pet trust creates a legal obligation to care for your pet according to your instructions and also provides accountability for the money that you leave to the caretaker.
How to Start
Your estate plan should be unique to your specific circumstances. Pet trusts and many other options are available when you create a comprehensive estate plan. Estate planning will take some investment of your time and money, but will be well worth it for the peace of mind knowing that your horses will have the proper care in the future.
If you are interested in exploring your own estate planning options, contact us today to set up your free initial consultation!