Pet Estate Planning With Jos Herman CPA,CA,CFP,CLU,TEP

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Pet Estate Planning
Pet Estate Planning

Pet Estate Planning: Ensure Your Pet is take care of in every scenario

As we navigate the complexities of ensuring our beloved pets are cared for after we're gone, who better to guide us than an expert in the field? Today, we're talking to Jos (pronounced "Yos") Herman, a professional estate planner and a long time PAWrent safeguarding our furry friends' futures through thoughtful and legal means.

We'll delve into the nuances of pet estate planning, uncovering the key considerations, legal implications, and compassionate strategies to ensure our pets continue to thrive, even in our absence. This conversation promises to shed light on a topic close to the hearts of pet lovers everywhere.

What are the most common misconceptions about including pets in estate plans?

In general, many people do not think they have to do estate planning at all. We think it is something that you only do when you are older (thinking they are too young to start) or it is only for those that have significant wealth or children.

Although we may think of our pets as our children, Canadian common law does not see it that way. Pets are considered personal property. So, we need to ensure that our pets are cared for after we are gone or we have an unforeseen life-health event.

Estate planning for the care of pets in the event of your death is an important aspect of holistic financial and estate planning, especially for people who consider their pets as part of their family (which most of us do). 

Can you include your pet in your will?


Because pets are considered personal property under common law, you can have a lawyer insert language in your will that expresses your wish to have your pet be given to a trusted individual.

You may even include direction for an alternate individual in the will in case that primary individual is unable to take on the responsibility when the time comes.

Without a will, the distribution of your assets and your pets will be determined by provincial laws, which may not reflect your wishes.


What are some considerations when it comes to the funding for the care for your pet after you have passed away?

Since pets cannot directly inherit money, one of the planning techniques that we help pet owners in their estate planning is to allocate funds to their trusted individual for their pet's care. This can be done through specific language in the will.

We may also look to create a separate fund that is paid directly to the caregiver outside of their estate.

Another common way that we have been helping our clients is creating a life insurance plan that can be used to ensure that their pets are well cared for after they pass away.

The death benefit from the life insurance can be received tax free and can provide the necessary funds to cover the pet's living expenses, medical care, and other needs.

What if the owner cannot think of someone to take care of their pet after they are gone, is there such things as pet foster programs? What should we consider with this alternative?

This is something to check with your local humane society as to whether they have some type of foster program.  Some humane societies offer pet stewardship programs that allow a pet owner to make a testamentary gift of the pet. They could take custody of the pet and search for an appropriate caregiver, etc.


What steps should pet owners take to prepare for unexpected illness or incapacity?

Good health is one of the most important assets we have.  When our health is impacted and we are diagnosed with a critical illness, it can affect our families and our ability to work to generate income and take care of our pets.

We encourage clients to have a plan for who will care for their pets in the event of a serious illness. This could involve identifying a trusted friend, family member, or professional pet care/daycare service. Funds from the critical illness insurance can be allocated to support these arrangements.  We help them realize that they can focus on recovery and not have to worry about the care of their pet from a financial standpoint.

As an added layer of planning, language can be inserted into an enduring Power of Attorney for property for the care of the pet in the event of incapacity.

How can pet owners ensure immediate care for their pets in emergency situations?

There are simple steps like placing information about your pet inside your wallet or purse that contains information about your pet in case you are in an accident and cannot return home.

If you are leaving your pet at a dog daycare, and you are on vacation and you suffer an emergency, is there an alternate person that can arrange to pick up your pet.

Are there any recent trends or considerations in pet estate planning that owners should be aware of?

More people are realizing that estate planning is less about navigating the intricacies of finance and more about peace of mind.

So, the focus has been trending in two areas:

There is still the lack of documentation about our intent or wishes in our planning. So, you may decide to accompany the will with a letter of wishes that can provide additional guidance to the caregiver. This letter can outline the pet's medical history, dietary needs, their routine, and other personal preferences (although it's not legally binding).

Secondly, it goes back to the lack of liquidity to care for the pet and other demands when people suffer a health life event. For example, if a pet owner is diagnosed with a critical illness, the financial burden can be significant.

Our planning includes having clients implement a critical illness policy into their planning.  A lump sum from critical illness insurance can be used to cover not only medical expenses and lost income but also the costs associated with your pet’s care. This can include hiring pet sitters, dog walkers, or even covering boarding costs if you have to stay in a hospital or travel for care.


How often should pet owners review and update their pet care plans?

We look at reviewing their plans when there are significant life changes. This includes changes in the pet owner’s health, financial situation, or family structure (such as marriage, divorce, or having children). Changes in the pet’s health or care requirements also warrant a review.

A general recommendation we make is to review the plan annually. This is part of the overall alignment of reviewing other financial and estate planning documents. Annual reviews help ensure that all information is up-to-date, especially regarding the pet’s health and care needs.

Can you share a story or example where pet estate planning significantly impacted a pet's well-being after their owner passed away?

Most of our planning involves looks at the overall picture for an individual during their lifetime and when they pass away. We do a financial plan for them that assesses their cashflow and even do scenario analyses for them to outline various recommendations.

I think of a time where we had worked with a professional with a successful practice. Overtime, her and her spouse accumulated wealth and had a lifestyle they enjoyed with their dog. When we had done the planning with them, we outlined how the loss of income would dramatically impact the other (and the care of their dog, Harvey) if one of them passed away. Time had passed and we had implemented a wealth accumulation strategy with a life insurance solution that allowed for tax free growth during their lifetime (and tax free dollars to be paid directly to her spouse to bypass the estate).

Ultimately, it allowed for her spouse to take time off work and spend time with Harvey to grieve. This tax free liquidity from their life insurance planning gave them flexibility when it was most important. This time together is the well-being and not worry about the continuing expenses that I think about and makes a true difference at the end of the day for our pets.

Tax & Estate Planner


Connect with Jos Herman for your pet estate planning questions

Jos provides wealth, tax and estate planning consultation to you as an individual, you as a business owner – and how this connects to your family, your wealth, and your estate.

Give Jos Herman a call at (604) 910-5174 or visit her website.

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