Q. I am getting up in years and I don't have a partner to leave my property to. My family and relatives are doing fine financially. I have two dogs that I want to make sure are taken care of if something happens to me. What can I do to protect my pets?
A. Unfortunately, pets cannot be beneficiaries of a Will. The law still considers pets to be property. That is why making a plan for your pets is very important.
First, plan for your incapacity. Carry with you a wallet card with contact information for emergency caretakers. A pet card provides, at a minimum, information that there is a pet in your house that needs emergency care and who should be contacted in case you are injured while away from home.
A more detailed pet care document should also be prepared and left in an obvious location in your house with copies given to any emergency caretakers. A pet care document might include instructions for the care of the animals, medical information, and veterinarian information.
Second, plan for your death. One option is to make an outright gift of your pet to another person along with a reasonable amount of money for the pet's care, with the request that the person use the funds to care for the pet. Or make an outright gift to another person of the pet and a reasonable amount of money for the pet's care, conditioned on the caretaker providing proper care for your pet.
You could direct in your will that your executor arrange for the adoption of your pet. Some organizations will take the pet and arrange for its adoption free of charge or in exchange for a contribution. When selecting a shelter to place the animal in, determine whether the shelter requires or recommends a gift of a certain amount and their placement rate.
In Illinois the Illinois Trusts and Trustees Act provides that a trust for the care of one or more designated domestic or pet animals is valid. You can create a Domestic Animal Trust for the pets you designate ("all dogs I own at my death"). You can provide in the trust, that no portion of the trust may be used by the trustee for a use other than the trust's purposes or for the benefit of a covered pet.