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Whether it is a dog, a cat, or a more exotic animal, a pet can become a true member of the family. Many people understandably have questions or concerns about what will happen to their beloved pets if they pass away or become incapacitated.

You can plan for your pet. Ohio allows people to include a pet within an estate plan — though there are certain rules and regulations you must follow. Here, our Cortland estate planning attorney provides an overview of the two primary pet-related estate planning options in Ohio.

Your Pet and Your Estate Plan: Preparing for the Future

1. You Can Leave Your Pet to a Trusted Person in Your Will

Ohio law is clear: Pets are property. If you fail to make special arrangements for your pet(s), they will be left to your heirs. You have the legal right to include a pet as part of your will, just the same as any other type of property. To be clear, you should not leave assets directly to your pet in a will — doing so would be a major mistake, as such an arrangement is invalid and unenforceable in Ohio.

Instead, you can leave your pet (and money for upkeep) to a trusted person. For example, imagine you have an adult child who is a pet-lover and has already developed a relationship with your dog. You can leave your dog to that child (or any other person) in your will. Of course, with pets, you should always ask the person ahead of time. If you are using your will to protect your pet, be sure the trusted person you select as a beneficiary is willing and able to provide a great home to your beloved animal.

You Can Create a Trust in Ohio for a Benefit of a Pet in Ohio

Many people use their will to leave their pet to a family member or close friend. However, in Ohio, that is not your only option. Under state law (Ohio Revised Code § 5804.08), you can establish a ‘pet trust’ to provide a greater level of protection to your pet. While you cannot leave assets directly to you a pet, you can put assets into a specialized pet trust.

The trustee will then be legally required to use those assets for the benefit of the pet, in accordance with the instructions included with the trust. As pet trusts are somewhat complicated, it is best to set one up with help from an experienced estate planning lawyer. Your lawyer will help you craft a trust that best protects your animal.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a Cortland, OH Estate Planning Lawyer

At The Law Office of John C. Grundy, our Ohio estate planning attorney will take the time to understand your needs and help you craft a comprehensive strategy. If you have any questions about pets and estate planning, we can help. Contact our Cortland law office today for a no-cost initial consultation. We offer estate planning services throughout Northeast Ohio, including in Warren, Niles, Jefferson, Andover, and Youngstown.