118: Do You Need an Estate Plan for Your Furry or Feathered Family Members?

You’ve probably heard stories of celebrities leaving their fortunes to their beloved pooches and thought, “How silly!” Sure, it’s unlikely that an animal needs millions of dollars – after all, what will they do with it? But if you’re a pet person, have you stopped to consider what will happen to your sidekick after you’re gone? People don’t think about how long animals can live. Dogs can live anywhere from 8-16 years, and cats from 12-18. And those are your household four-legged friends. What about fish and birds? Koi fish live anywhere from 25-35 years, and parrots can live up to 50 or 65 years – who knew?! Don’t forget there are lizards, turtles, snakes, and even horses that could outlive you.

“Estate planning for your pets is important for several reasons. The first, of course, is that you love your pets like a child, and you worry about what will happen to them when you’re gone.”

If an owner does pass, often, the pet is left out of the picture, and a family member gets stuck with the burden of caring for them on their own, facing vet bills, grooming expenses, daily care, and more. Even worse than leaving a loved one with the responsibility is your poor puppy ending up at the pound.

Fortunately, a little bit of planning goes a long way to ensure your pet friends get the quality of care they deserve. It can be as simple as researching rescues, having a conversation with the person you want to designate to ensure they are on board during your pet estate planning process, or setting up a pet trust. In this episode, Kirsten and Madison will talk more about,

  • Why it’s essential to include all pets, from goldfish to horses, in your estate plan.
  • The variety of options available to ensure quality pet care after you’re gone.
  • Why it is important to include a financial incentive, maybe not millions, but enough to cover the needs of your pet.
  • Fun stories of celebrities who made big plans for their pups.
  • How to hold your pet caregiver accountable after you are gone.

And much more!

So, saddle up (if you’re estate planning for a horse, that is) because this episode has as much fun and enthusiasm as it does information and inspiration. It’s never too late to start planning, and listening in is a great way to start!

Big Three from Episode #118:

  1. Many pets live longer than we tend to think, so it’s best to assume they’ll outlive us, especially if you continue to get new pets into your later years in life. Estate planning for your pet ensures they can live a happy and fulfilled life even after you’re gone.
  2. There are two main options for estate planning for your pets. The first and most common is designating someone to care for them. The second option is setting up a pet trust. Both have pros and cons, but one may be more suitable than the other, depending on your situation and preferences.
  3. Only you know your pets the best. So whether you develop a specific estate plan for them or not, consider writing a letter to outline their particular peculiarities that way, regardless, you can rest assured your furry friend’s medical needs, ideal environment, and likes and dislikes will continue to be met until the end of their life.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

0:44 In this episode, we’re talking about estate planning for pets. One great example of this is what happened with Queen Elizabeth’s corgis.

1:55 One reason why you should have a plan in place is because some pets live longer than you might think. The oldest cat and dog on record is 28 years old – WOW!

4:14 At a certain point in your life, you must wonder, “Is it worth getting another pet?” If so, then you do need to think about estate planning.

6:55 There are various ways you can plan for your pets. The most common is designating someone to care for them and leaving money to do so.

8:12 If you leave your pet to another person, it’s essential to have that discussion with them so they aren’t caught off guard.

8:34 How do you determine how much money to leave for your pet’s future caregiver? Here are a few rules of thumb.

9:38 Another option is to set up a pet trust, which ensures the money goes toward caring for your pet. Interested in how it works? Then tune in here!

10:35 There are pros and cons to choosing a pet trust. You’ll have to pay the trustee to manage the account, but you’ll also get to choose what happens to any leftover funds after your pet has passed.

11:20 Pet trusts aren’t very common, but there are some situations where they may be preferred, such as if you have a show dog, a movie animal, or an expensive pet.

12:47 Now, on to a fun topic: celebrity pet planning stories!

13:17 The first celebrity on the list is Karl Lagerfeld, who left $1.5 million to his Burmese cat, Choupette.

14:47 When Leona Helmsley passed, her Maltese dog, Trouble, stirred trouble within the family when he received $12 million.

16:35 Alexander McQueen left 82,000 in a trust for his dogs, but it’s a little more complicated than that. Find out more here.

17:32 Oprah has reportedly set aside $30 million for her poodles’ care after she’s gone.

18:34 It’s said that Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the wife of the creator of Star Trek, plans to put aside $5 million for her dogs and their care.

20:15 Last on our list of famous pet estate plans is Betty White, who set up a $5 million trust for her dog.

21:01 A quick tip: If estate planning is done right, where your funds go should be private information.

21:53 Q&A: What happens to a pet if the trustee or executor can’t find anyone to take it?

23:31 Q&A: How can you ensure that the trustee of a pet trust is doing their job?

26:06 Estate planning for your pet is something you can start right now by simply researching rescues in your area.

27:12 Another quick tip would be to write a letter about your animal to share specific information like a medical condition or personality traits, for example, if you’re not leaving direct instructions.

Resources/Links Mentioned in this Episode:

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