Planning For The Care Of Your Horses After Your Death 

Horse owners are selfless people who devote themselves to protecting, raising, training, and loving these incredible animals. All horse owners know that owning a horse is a significant undertaking in terms of time and money. When you accept this responsibility, the commitment to feeding, grooming, and exercising them falls on you. Regardless of what the weather and your calendar look like, you still have to muck the stalls, exercise the horse, or turn them out in a paddock daily. It can be arduous work, 365 days a year, that many horse owners describe as a labor of love. 

The costs associated with this labor of love can be considerable. Even if you own a single horse, you must factor in the following for an animal that could live 25-30 years:

  • Food 
  • Veterinary Care
  • Farrier Care 
  • Bedding
  • Building Maintenance & Upkeep
  • Training

As a horse owner, you are prepared for the time and financial commitments during your lifetime, but what happens to your horses at the end of your life? Who will care for them? Does that person have the financial resources to do so? Those questions can be addressed by including your horses in your estate plan. 

Living Without An Estate Plan 

The dedicated people who run equine rescue centers in Virginia are committed to caring for horses whose owners have died or cannot otherwise continue to provide care. When a horse owner passes away without providing a plan (i.e., an estate plan that includes a horse or pet trust) for how the horse will be cared for, the horse will be treated as mere tangible property and be passed to heirs in the same way as household belongings and personal effects.  There will be no specific control over who receives the horse or whether that person is prepared to care for it, hence the importance of estate planning concerning horses and other pets. 

Without a proper estate plan, the deceased’s assets get distributed according to intestate succession laws. Intestacy is the state of dying without a will, and the State’s intestacy laws will determine who will inherit the decedent’s assets. The person who inherits the horse may not have the time, money, or knowledge to take care of it. Ultimately, these same people may turn to equine rescue centers to take the horse in. Although they don’t have the heart to say no, the dedicated people at equine rescue facilities often don’t have the necessary funding and resources to keep saying yes. 

Continue To Be Selfless

In Virginia, you can create a pet trust for horses. Any pet owner can meet with an attorney to draft a legal document outlining what should happen to their animal if they pass away or are incapacitated. Think about who you want to select as the trustee and caretaker. You can appoint either one or more people to fulfill these roles. These individuals will manage the trust assets and care for the animals named in the trust. You should coordinate with the individuals or equine rescue facilities you intend to name to confirm their willingness to take on these tremendous responsibilities. Trustees and caretakers can be entitled to compensation if they choose. 

Through your trust-based estate plan that your attorney created, you can direct a portion of your assets for the ongoing care of your animals after your death.  If the funds are not used for the care of your animals, any money left over can go back into your estate.  

One of the essential elements of a pet trust is that you can state how your pet will be cared for. No one knows your pet better than you, and you can pass this information on for their benefit. Though you will not be there, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your pet will be treated in a way that you know they would want. 

Why This is Important To Norton Pelt

Our managing partner, Levi Norton, and his wife, attorney Martha Norton have an established history of being around and appreciating horses. Levi grew up doing rodeo in Idaho and was fortunate enough to spend time caring for working horses. From a young age, Martha was a part of the hunter-jumper world with thoroughbreds here in Virginia. Although their lives are different now, they share a love and passion for horses. As attorneys, they can care for them in unique ways, such as developing pet trusts. 

Build a Trust for Your Pet 

The skilled attorneys at Norton Pelt have extensive experience helping clients build an estate plan. We can assist you with creating wills, trusts (including pet trusts), powers of attorney, and advanced medical directives. To learn more about how we can help you, contact Norton Pelt to schedule your consultation.

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