New State Law Can Help Local Pets

Thousands of Lakewood residents love their pets. In fact, most consider their pets to be part of the family. They spend lots of time and money making sure that their companion animals are happy and healthy. However, there is one eventuality that many local pet owners fail to consider. What happens to your pet in the event of your death? A recently passed Ohio law is designed to help pet owners plan for their animals’ future.

It is certainly not a happy thought but one that must be considered. If you die, your pets are legally considered property, no different than your clothes or furniture. Without proper planning, orphaned pets can potentially wind up in the custody of someone unwilling or unable to properly care for them. Your pet could even be sent to a shelter or dumped out into the street by your surviving relatives. To make sure that your pets are taken care of, here are a few suggestions:

  • Do not assume that your children or relatives are willing to take your pets...specifically ask them if they are willing to do so
  • Make sure that the heir understands the time and effort required to own a pet. This is especially important if they have never been pet owners before. Many orphaned animals are turned out by first-time pet owners that inherited the animal from a loved one
  • If your heirs are not comfortable with adopting your pet, seek a commitment from another family member or friend
  • Make sure that the potential adopter’s home is a good match for your animal. For example, if you have an large, active dog, a small apartment might not be good.
  • If your pet has any special needs, make sure to leave instructions on medical care, feeding and other habits

Once you have identified a willing and acceptable adopter, it is prudent to leave behind some financial assistance to cover the pet’s expenses. After all, this person is already doing you a great favor, so if possible it is courteous to cover expenses. A portion of your life insurance can be designated for such as purpose. The amount of money necessary can vary widely, depending on the age, health and type of pets involved.

A new Ohio law that took effect in 2007 is designed to help residents with this dilemma. The new law allows residents to establish trust funds for their pets. Owners will be able to set up a fund that designates a caregiver and includes instructions on who will manage the money. Unlike traditional wills, money can be distributed from a trust without potentially being tied up in probate for many months. For more information on estate planning for your pets, contact your lawyer, accountant or financial planner. With a little planning, you can make your pet's transition to its new life much easier.
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Volume 3, Issue 3, Posted 6:06 PM, 01.31.07