When scrolling through Facebook, it is becoming commonplace to see posts about animals looking for homes because their owner either entered a long-term care facility or passed away. With the recent advances of geriatric animal care, all of our animals are living longer. This is wonderful news because we are able to spend longer lifetimes with our animals, but it means they may outlive us. It is equally important to include provisions for your four-legged children in your estate plan as you would for your two-legged children.
Although it is important to think about planning for your household pets, today we will discuss the importance of planning for horses and other equines. It is now common to see full-sized riding horses living well into their thirties. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest living horse was Badger, an Arab-Welsh Cross that lived to be fifty-one years old.
A recent poll conducted of several Equine Veterinarians licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts asked: Would you euthanize a healthy horse because the owner passed away and did not leave care provisions or recommendations for their horse? Of the Veterinarians polled, 100% said they would not euthanize a healthy horse because the owner passed away.
This leads us to an important question, who will take care of your horses after you are no longer able to? Perhaps you assume that one of your children will be interested in caring for your equine. However, your child may be busy with their own family and they may not have the same interest in horses that you do or that they once did. Perhaps you think the barn manager will spend their time to find a suitable home for your horse. Do you expect the barn manager to pay for your horses’ care in the meantime?
You need to plan for your horse as much as you would plan for your minor children. The answer is: you should include your horses in your estate plan.
Laws vary state to state, so you should always contact a licensed estate planning in your state before embarking on creating an estate plan. Here are some things to think about before contacting an estate planning attorney:
- Who should care for your horse / equine upon your incapacity or death?
- If your primary choice cannot care for your animal, who are one or two back-ups?
- Is it your desire that they keep your equine or sell the animal?
- How much cash should you set aside to care for your horse?
- Should the cash be distributed all at once, or in monthly increments?
- If there is cash left after the animal has lived its full life, does the caregiver keep the funds, or should the funds be distributed to your beneficiaries or a charity?
It is often said that every person needs an estate plan, but in this case, more importantly, every animal owner needs an estate plan.
 One veterinarian did comment that if the horse was elderly and, most likely, unadoptable due to age or illness, she would euthanize the horse.