Ilene McCauley and Wendy Feldman
As a horse owner, you are responsible for the care, feeding and everyday maintenance of your animals. You probably don’t even think twice about getting out in the morning and the evening to feed and water your horse. I however, you may have never thought about what would happen to the animals if you didn’t come home. Who would take care of them? Who would pay for their feed, shoeing and veterinary care? Who would know whom to call?
For many of us, taking time to meet with family members to discuss such topics as power of attorney, the location of our will, questions about state planning, children’s guardians, and other family matters is an important event. However, have you thought about adding the topic of care for your horse, or other pets, in your discussions? Having a plan in place to care for the animals upon the owner’s death can be an important piece to planning.
The good news is the state of Arizona has recently passed legislation making trusts for animals legal and enforceable. That means when you take the time to put a written plan in place to care ofr your horses they will be cared for according to your wishes.
Putting a plan in place requires action on your part. First of all, just as you would for your family, you need to make certain you have resources necessary to take care of your animals if you are no longer there. How will the bills be paid for the stable and feed? Who will oversee the veterinary care of your animals? Sitting down with your financial advisor and insurance agent to review your plans and insurance is the first step in reviewing whether or not you have the necessary assets to insure that your wishes will be carried out.
Next, you need to sit down with a qualified professional to write down your specific goals and wishes with regard to your animals. While the Arizona statute is in place allowing you to write the plan, you must include many details that a professional estate planning attorney can provide for you.
How detailed can you be in this plan? Very detailed. For example, the plan can determine who will be the caregiver, the options for keeping, selling or finding good homes for the animals and how much money is available for their care. Additionally, the care plan for each horse can be spelled out individually. Of course, most horse owners also have many other animals. The plan can be written to provide for them all.
For many years horse owners have asked us how to provide for their animals when they were setting up their estates plan. Now that there is a tool provided to us by the state, we encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
The advantages of planning for your animals now include:
– Explaining your decisions and wishes to your family while you are living
– Other family members can explain their own concerns and desires
– Such discussions can strengthen family bonds, and avoid future misunderstandings.