Has Estate Planning Gone to the Dogs?

At first I thought I had misread the subject line of the email I received. It was from the AICPA, an organization that I respect as a CPA. The email was touting the “New Guide to Legal Planning for Pet Care.” Recent changes in estate law have changed the legal status of a pet to property, affording them better legal rights and protection. Drafting legal documents to protect the welfare of pets is apparently becoming the new trend. Those that treat their pets like family (or better) will now be able to legally set up trusts to ensure Fido maintains his current standard of living. I’m sure this could also lead to some surprised heirs who find out they’re getting less than the pets.

The emphasis on pets is echoed in recent articles about PurinaCare, a pet health insurance provider. PurinaCare’s pet insurance is now available as a group benefit that employers can offer to employees. The insurance group has also just expanded their insurance coverage to two more states so it must be catching on.

As a member of our Wealth Management group, I’m always looking for more ways to help our clients plan for the future. All jokes aside about the current lack of estate planning reform, it seems that traditional insurance and estate planning have now really gone to the dogs (and cats).

While we’re on the subject, don’t forget to update your wills and account beneficiaries for the non-animals in your life. Many times, wills and other important documents aren’t frequently updated which can lead to unintended results when your estate is distributed. Check up on your wills, trust documents, durable powers of attorney, and beneficiaries of life insurance policies, retirement plans and other accounts. This review is especially important if you’ve had any significant changes in the family through births, deaths, marriages or divorces. Make sure your assets are going to those you intend to inherit your wealth….otherwise, you could be in the doghouse!