Pets and estate planning in Michigan

When establishing estates and trusts, people normally take into consideration who will care for minor children in the event of the parent's passing. Michigan families may be overlooking important family members. Pets are often considered part of the family, and as such, they should also be accounted for in any estate planning or family trusts.

A woman married into a family who owned an African Gray parrot. African Grays can live to be 75 – 100 years old. The family was working on a will where the daughter would take over care of the bird if the bird outlived the parents. Other animals in the family were not going to be given the same consideration. The woman's sister said she would take the family's dogs and cats in the event that her sister and her husband both died, but this arrangement was not going to be formalized in their estate planning as was the case for the parrot.

In planning their estates, Michigan families should take into consideration their pets when making provisions for the care of family members. Over 100,000 pets are left homeless every year by deceased owners, according to the Humane Society. Pet ownership is a lifetime commitment, not only for the life of the owner but also for the life of the pet.

Michigan families who have pets could benefit from discussing estate planning options with an attorney who specializes in that area. One would want to also consider leaving a trust for pets, particularly those that may live as long as an African Gray parrot. Though the person designated to care for the pet may be willing, he or she may not have the financial capacity to care for the pet.

Source: Brian O'Connell, "Even Your Goldfish Needs an Estate Plan", March 6, 2018

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