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Simple estate planning tips for Tennessee pet owners

When considering the best way to structure one's estate plan, most Tennessee residents focus on passing assets down to their intended heirs while incurring the lowest tax ramifications possible. While this is a great way to approach the estate planning process, many families would also benefit by considering the day-to-day needs that will follow the loss of a loved one. One of those needs involves determining who will care for the pets that are left behind.

Choosing a new caretaker is perhaps the most important aspect of estate planning for pets. It is essential to pick a friend or family member who is able to assume the responsibility of an animal's care and who has a lifestyle that is compatible with pet ownership. For example, a beloved but aging dog would be a poor fit for a young family with kids and other pets already within the home. The best choice for this caretaker role is an individual who is already familiar with the animal and who would be happy to welcome the pet into his or her home.

Pet owners should also compile a list of documents that outline all important facts about an animal. This includes vet records and contact information, along with a list of any medications the pet needs or has taken in the past. It is helpful to outline the animal's personality traits and preferences, which can help the new owner make a pet feel at home when the time comes.

In certain cases, Tennessee families may wish to create a trust to cover the cost of an animal's care. This step is only necessary for pets who have significant or specialized care needs, however. For most pets, it is sufficient to simply take the time to choose an appropriate caregiver and ensure that the new owner has all of the information needed to assume that role. Completing that simple estate planning step is an enormous expression of love toward both the pet and the new owner. 

Source:, "Pet Estate Planning: Six Things You Need to Do To Protect Your Pet", Diane Rich, July 22, 2015

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