Estate Planning for Pets

A recently conducted a survey of pet owners and found nearly half (44%) of pet owners have prepared for the future care of their animals should their pets outlive them. Utilizing traditional financial planning instruments such as living trusts, life insurance and annuities, pet owners are able to have peace of mind knowing that their pets’ needs will be met.

Generally,  pet estate plans consist of more than who will care for the pet when you are no longer able. Expenses such as food, doggie day care, veterinarian bills / medication and needed home repairs, because of the pet, should also be considered. Those expenses can result in substantial costs over time.  

Also, one-in-five of all respondents in the survey said they have financially planned for their pets’ future care:

38% said they added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.

35% added more coverage to their life policies.

-13% recently purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

Many pet owners consider their pets as members of their family and many go to great lengths to make their pets’ lives enjoyable as possible.  So, not surprisingly, many respondents stated that they would forgo other debt payments to ensure their dogs were taken care of properly.

Yet, most pet owners overlook end-of-life planning.  Setting up a trust for a pet or a donation money to a local  humane society or pet shelter are just a few of the options available.

A question many people consider before adding a new animal to the family is, “Can we afford it?” The price of an animal from a breeder can be high, into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. A more affordable option is often available at a local humane society or rescue shelter. Here in New York, you can get an animal that has been thoroughly evaluated, spayed or neutered, and vaccinated – all for about $140. Annual costs of food, veterinarian bills, etc. are equally important to consider before making a pet a part of your family. Sadly, pets are often returned to animal shelters because the pet owners were unable to afford things like veterinarian bills.

Finally, inquire about pet insurance the next time you visit your veterinarian. Many clinics offer reasonable plans and staff members will be able to speak with you about the appropriate option based on the type of pet, breed, age and other criteria. Typically, policies cost as little as $15 a month, which is a huge difference compared to a $1,000 emergency bill. The average policy cost closer to $45 per month.

Simple steps, like the aforementioned examples, will ensure your pets are cared for properly and affordably. If you need help or guidance in developing a care plan for your pets after you pass on, please contact us here at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein @(212) 693-3737.

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Estate planning? Consult a professional

The internet offers many ways to create your own estate planning documents and you can take that route if you want to save money, but you are better off hiring a professional to insure all your documentation is legally valid.

There’s nothing wrong with saving some dough by drafting your own estate-planning documents. You can find templates for basic wills and such online or in bookstores. But that should be followed with a review of those documents by an expert to insure everything is in order

Massachusetts estate planner Leanna Hamill, told AARP that, “Ninety percent of the online estate planning documents I see don’t do what the people think they’re going to do. I’ve seen people use online documents, documents out of estate-planning books or documents borrowed from friends. But they screw up their estate plan because they don’t understand the legal and technical aspects of the documents.”

Hamill told AARP that she knows of one client who signed a deed transferring his house to a trust but hadn’t properly created the trust. Thus, the deed had no effect. Another client’s confusion over the term “beneficiary” resulted in the immediate transfer of all his property to his children and required him to pay them an annual income, leaving his wife in the cold.

So even though you can do it yourself, err on the safe  side and contact a professional like Jeffrey Weinstein @  212-693-3737 for a free consultation.

 

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Digital assets and your will

We’ve written ad nauseum about how less that half of Americans have a will. Well, almost that many also forget to include their digital assets in their estate plan.

Most Americans don’t keep track of their online assets like Paypal, Facebook, and merchant loyalty reward programs and chances are will forget to include them in their estate plans. By neglecting these things a it can cause hassles for beneficiaries, powers of attorney and executors.

One group of things that people tend not to think of are reward programs like frequent flyer miles. For example, Anthony Bourdain left his unused frequent flyer miles to his estranged wife and they were substantial. We suggest you write down all your digital assets including logins and passwords and store them when only someone you trust knows where they are.

If you find it all too daunting there are businesses popping up that will do it for you. One business is out of Durham, North Carolina called Back Up Your Life which their site says

We help you organize your life’s documents, details, and contingency plans. If you’re ready to be ready, let’s back up your life.

Then there are digital estate services, such as Everplans, which helps her clients by providing a digital archive of everything your loved ones need if you die or get into an accident and can’t communicate.

Among the things Everplans takes care of:

  • Wills, Trusts, and insurance policies
  • Important accounts and passwords
  • Info about your home: bills, vendors, etc.
  • Health and medical information
  • Advance Directives and DNRs
  • Final wishes and funeral preferences

 

 

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Do you need an attorney for a living will?

You can make a living will without a lawyer’s help. Most states have designed their health care forms, called Living Wills and Health Care Proxies in New York, with the specific intention you will complete them yourself. Usually, you’ll need to consult a health care professional or an attorney only if there is something about your forms that you don’t understand. And this is why you should consult an attorney to help you.

There are a few instances where it would do you well to consult with an estate planning lawyer, like Jeffrey Weinstein Esq.or a health care professional.

Terms such as “artificial nutrition and hydration,” “persistent vegetative state,” and “incapacity” in the forms may leave you confused. A health care professional or lawyer can explain the terms you don’t understand and can answer any questions about how your documents work. Many hospitals and other health care facilities have representatives who can explain the basics of your state’s health care forms and help you complete them.

You might be worried that family members may not agree with your health care wishes or may even fight about your medical treatment. This is where a good estate planning lawyer can ease your concerns by making sure your wishes are clearly expressed. The lawyer can also double check your forms to be sure they are properly finalized and legally sound.

A qualified lawyer can also help you make health care documents as part of a comprehensive estate plan, including a will, living trust, or other documents you may need. While it’s usually possible to accomplish these tasks on your own,  it much easier to put the job into a lawyer’s hands. If it’s a question of hiring a lawyer versus putting off doing it yourself, don’t procrastinate. Take steps to make these essential documents or get the help you need.

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A giant problem: Chinese don’t have wills.

 The world’s most populous nation, China has the second-largest economy and one of the highest savings rates and mushrooming wealth. Yet virtually no one has a will, and that’s a big problem.

 The first generation, thirty years after China embarked on a course that allowed individuals to accumulate wealth, is statring to die. This dieoff is creating a spike in inheritance disputes that are clogging up the courts and turning families against each other.

The problem has gotten so bad that even the ruling Communist Party is concerned.

 “When people die without a will their children scramble for their property, damaging family ties and having a negative effect on society,”

According to the best estimates, only 1% of China’s 220 million seniors have estate plans, The reason is, in China talking about death and writing a will is the same as putting a curse on yourself.

Even the rich and educated often don’t write them.

 Hu Xingdou, an economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology was quoted as saying.  “China is entering a crucial period. If we don’t find a way to transfer wealth responsibly it will affect social stability.”

To solve this burgeoning problem, the government has looked to local town and villages to create free legal centers for those over 60. One lawyer,  Chen Kai, has stepped up and created a charity called  the China Will Registration Center which has processed over 40,000 wills in last year.

An article in the People’s Daily said 70% of inheritance cases in Beijing courts stem from the lack of a will. In the cases where a will is challenged, 60% are found to be invalid.

While the situation in the U.S. isn’t quite as bad, it is pretty serious. Experts say almost 60% of people don’t have wills. A we have written here before, depending on the size of your estate, you need at bare minimum, a will. If you need help planning your estate please call us, The Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein 347-305-8752 for a free consultation regarding your estate needs.

 

 

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