How can an Arizona testator include a pet in their estate plan?

Families in Arizona may include multiple generations of humans and people not related to one another by blood but instead by marriage or adoption. Sometimes, families even include non-human members.

Pets and companion animals can be a very important part of modern families. People become very attached to dogs, cats and other domestic animals. They may want to provide resources for the animals that they love and ensure their comfort in the future. Many people might hope to include their pets in their Arizona estate plans, but they need to take great care when doing so.

Animals cannot inherit property directly

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when creating an estate plan that discusses their pets is to leave a direct financial inheritance to a pet. Technically, animals cannot own assets, so the person who assumes responsibility for the pet would then have control over those resources. They might choose to euthanize the animal instead of taking care of it.

That same risk is a concern when someone addresses the animal as though they are property in their estate plan. Bequeathing the pet to a specific person means that the beneficiary who receives the animal can choose what level of care it receives. The best way to ensure the comfort and quality of life of a beloved companion animal is to create a pet trust.

The party with the responsibility to care for the animal can be someone different than the trustee managing the assets allocated for the pet’s care. Trust documents can include clear instructions about the type of care and support the pet needs. The trust’s resources can pay for food, grooming services and veterinary care.

When properly structured, pet trusts can help ensure that there are multiple people with a degree of responsibility for an animal’s comfort after the original owner’s passing. Trusts can also remove financial incentives for euthanizing the animal. Especially when someone has major medical challenges or recently adopted a pet that could outlive them, taking the time to arrange for a pet’s comfort in an estate plan is a smart choice.