Pet Parents seeking to provide for their pets in their estate plan have four different strategies from which to choose:
- Gift of the pet to a pet retirement home or no-kill shelter
- An outright gift to a human beneficiary made in the will
- A Standalone Pet Trust
- A Pet Protection Plan
The first potential strategy to gift your pet to a pet retirement home or no-kill shelter is fundamentally different than the others. If you're considering this strategy, check out our this article on the "Top 5 Things to Do Before Gifting Your Pet to a Pet Retirement Home"
This article will focus on the differences between the other strategies: will, standalone pet trust, and Pet Protection Plan strategies.
Outright Gifts Under a Will
An outright gift to a human beneficiary made under the will is by far the simplest strategy for passing on funds for the benefit of your pets. Often, this can be accomplished with as little as one sentence in the will.
Where it thrives in simplicity, the outright gift falls short in most other ways. The gift under the will is valid only after the pet parent's death, any care instructions for the pets are non-binding, and it cannot ensure that the funds given will be used for the care of pets.
A Pet Trust or a Pet Protection Agreement represent the more robust strategies for protecting your pets' wellbeing.
Pet Protection Plan vs. Pet Trust
A well drafted Pet Trust allows you to designate someone to look after your pet, specify the standards of care that your pet should receive, and leave funds for the benefit of your pet.
Since trusts do not need to go through the probate process, unlike provisions for pets in a will, a standalone pet trust can kick in immediately after the pet parent's death, incapacity, or disability. Additionally, most pet trusts have built-in oversight mechanisms to ensure that any funds left for the care and comfort of the pets are used properly.
The Pet Protection Plan by Just In Case Estates was created to mirror the benefits of a standalone Pet Trust. It works by creating a legally enforceable contract between you (the Pet Parent) and the Pet Guardian. If you pass away or become temporarily disabled, you can transfer custody of your pets to the Pet Guardian. At your option, you can also grant the Pet Guardian a Limited Power of Attorney that provides the Pet Guardian with access to emergency or long-term funds used solely for the care and comfort of your pets.
|Pet Provisions in Will||Standalone Pet Trust||Pet Protection Plan|
|Valid after pet owner's death||✔||✔||✔|
|Useable immediately after pet owner's death||✔||✔|
|Valid before pet owner's death (i.e, incapacity or disability)||✔||✔|
|Legally valid in all 50 states||✔||✔|
|Nominate pet guardians||✔||✔|
|Leave funds fore care of pets||✔||✔||✔|
|Ensure funds are used for pets||✔||✔|
|Protection from court challenge of allocated funds||✔||✔|
|Binding care instructions||✔||✔|
Although today all 50 states officially recognize pet trusts as part of their estate law, the requirements for creating and maintaining pet trusts can vary from state to state. As a result, many Pet Trusts are created with the help of an attorney, which can cost several thousand dollars. Additionally, funding and maintaining pet trusts requires some upfront and recurring time commitments. Unless you plan to leave significant funds to your pet, you may find that creating a Pet Trust through an attorney is not economical.
Just In Case Estates' Pet Protection Plan with the optional Limited HIPAA Authorization and Limited Power of Attorney add-ons offers a compelling pet trust substitute and effective way to ensure the long-term care and wellbeing of your pets. Both the core Pet Protection Plan and optional add-ons are available free on our website. It's our way of doing our part to close the Pet Protection Gap of the estimated 92% of American pet households that do not have estate plans with specific provisions concerning their pets.