estate planning with animals

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notmyhand
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estate planning with animals

Post by notmyhand » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:44 pm

This may be a bizarre question to many of you but I'm hoping someone can relate and has thought about it. DH and I live on a hobby farm and have about ~100 animals between the farm animals like chickens, four large dogs, and about twenty cats. We want to leave the majority of our relatively minor estate to any future children but we also want to make sure our animals are taken care of and we don't really want to burden the executor with trying to find homes for all of the animals. I am considering leaving the property (which will hopefully be paid off by the time we pass) to a relative that is willing to take care of the animals but I find that even if a relative agrees now, situations will likely change in the future. Therefore I am considering speaking with the animal rescue we volunteer with to see if I can leave them a certain amount and if they would be willing to then re-home the animals. Has anyone made after-life plans for their animals that weren't as simple as "my mother will take my two small dogs?" Interested in hearing how this issue is being dealt with.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Gill
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Gill » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:57 pm

Yes, speak to the animal rescue organization. Our local cat rescue organization offers an arrangement whereby they will guarantee care of your cats for their lives in exchange for a bequest to the organization.
Gill

mouses
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by mouses » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:24 pm

I've left a significant amount of money in my will for the care of any pets I have at the time if my death, since I know what medical care cost of one who had a chronic illness, very expensive, and the executor gets to pick who gets that and the pets. However, I have three people lined up and the executor knows that, so he isn't going to have to deal with finding someone. It comes first among the bequests.

A relative had an arrangement with the local animal group for the care of his cat in exchange for a bequest. The director adopted the cat.

With the number of animals you have, I am not sure how that would work. Where I live, there are non-profit organizations which run historic farms, installing a farmer or farm family to do the actual work for a salary. Perhaps even though yours is presumably not historic, something like that might be worked out. (Maybe by the time this is a concern, you might have adult kids who want to take over.)

ResearchMed
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by ResearchMed » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:34 pm

mouses wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:24 pm
I've left a significant amount of money in my will for the care of any pets I have at the time if my death, since I know what medical care cost of one who had a chronic illness, very expensive, and the executor gets to pick who gets that and the pets. However, I have three people lined up and the executor knows that, so he isn't going to have to deal with finding someone. It comes first among the bequests.

A relative had an arrangement with the local animal group for the care of his cat in exchange for a bequest. The director adopted the cat.

With the number of animals you have, I am not sure how that would work. Where I live, there are non-profit organizations which run historic farms, installing a farmer or farm family to do the actual work for a salary. Perhaps even though yours is presumably not historic, something like that might be worked out. (Maybe by the time this is a concern, you might have adult kids who want to take over.)
Yes, but I had far fewer animals.

At the time, I had arranged with a Veterinary School to make an endowment for a particular area of study that was important to me, with the accompanying formal agreement that they would care for a few pets that I had.

That was some time ago, and the pets have all passed (and, sadly, we cannot get more due to DH's allergies now).
I will still leave the same school some money for the same purpose, but not as much.
I was also prepared to have a separate fund to cover all costs for the care, and the school had agreed that the pets would be adopted by a person or family, and not cared for "institutionally".

I'm not sure what to suggest in your case, given the number of animals, and also the varying types.
Something like what mouses suggests might work, especially if there is enough money to fund something like that.
Perhaps the land value could be a large part of that? Hard to say, without knowing more about the numbers (both $$ and amount of care it all takes, which sounds considerable).

Starting with the local animal rescue makes sense, and they may have other suggestions, or perhaps have others who have dealt with similar situations.

Are there any special people who help you regularly or occasionally with the care?
They'd at least be familiar with how things are run, and with the animals themselves. They could at the least help with a transition period, perhaps.

RM
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Nyc10036
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Nyc10036 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 8:43 pm

When people think of animal rescues they generally think of cats and dogs.
However, there are rescues for farmed animals e.g. animals that are normally raised for food.

Since you have 100, I would split the donation amount among at least 10 rescues for the farm animals
and 2 for the dogs and 5 for the cats.
Most rescues are not able to absorb that many animals at once.

I applaud you for planning ahead.

In the 3 years I have volunteered at a small no-kill rescue, I have seen more than I want of cats and dogs that end up there because no family wanted them when their humans died or went into a nursing home.
Just met one dog today. Poor guy was shaking continuously. And that's in a place that doesn't kill for space and with just 7 dogs.

Mudpuppy
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:13 am

Just as you can set up a trust to care for a dependent adult child after your passing, you can also set up a trust for the benefit of your animals after your passing. The trust would specify when/how the animals are to be rehomed, or which relative receives the property due to agreeing to care for the animals (and it can even stipulate a standard of care for the animals that the relative has to maintain). The trust should have sufficient funding to care for the animals under the terms of the trust. Speak to an attorney that specializes in estate planning.

mouses
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by mouses » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:53 am

Mudpuppy wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 2:13 am
Just as you can set up a trust to care for a dependent adult child after your passing, you can also set up a trust for the benefit of your animals after your passing. The trust would specify when/how the animals are to be rehomed, or which relative receives the property due to agreeing to care for the animals (and it can even stipulate a standard of care for the animals that the relative has to maintain). The trust should have sufficient funding to care for the animals under the terms of the trust. Speak to an attorney that specializes in estate planning.
Speak to a -reputable- attorney. When I first looked into this, I went to one of those free consultations set up by my the local bar association. The guy oozed slime. It would be "no problem" to find a home for my animals, he "had good friends who would be fine with taking them in" (every pet person knows homes are hard to find), etc. Of course, I had mentioned setting up money for the care of the animals. I left quickly. A year or two later there was an article in the newspaper that the guy was disbarred for some financial crookedness.

Plus he later sent me a bill for the free consultation. I refused by letter to pay for it and never heard from him again. This situation is when I found out that a local bar association recommendation means nothing. This one recommended any member who signs up for their list.

fourwheelcycle
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by fourwheelcycle » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:05 am

Wow - 100 animals including 20 cats - that's quite a hobby farm. I think sitting down with your local animal shelter is a great idea. Tell them what you hope to achieve and then gently but candidly move on to the question of whether your financial ability to leave a suitable gift in your estate plan meets with their sense of how much they would require in order to make the commitment to re-home your animals.

If they are a not-for-profit shelter they probably have a board that will need to be consulted. I have been on small NFP boards that were approached by people who wanted us to accept gifts with conditions attached. Sometimes, even though the conditions were in keeping with the agencies' missions, the board felt the commitment requested was either not one the organization could make or the size of the gift offered was not sufficient to make the commitment feasible.

There is also a question of timing. It may be necessary or appropriate to fund this gift before the second of you dies. The shelter could possibly not afford to expend funds immediately when the second of you dies, to begin caring for you animals, when your estate may not settle for six months or more. Another problem could emerge if the shelter gift may not be fully funded after your final expenses are paid, or if other heirs will be first in line ahead of the shelter. Making a suitable gift to the shelter before you die would address both of these problems.

tschaefges
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by tschaefges » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:09 am

If your state allows it, you might consider a pet trust. We have one in Illinois. You can set up a trust to fund your animals' care with the residual going wherever you want. That way you know the money will not be spent on anything else.

Broken Man 1999
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Broken Man 1999 » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:16 am

I read somewhere that the Queen of England hasn't been replacing her corgis as they died as she didn't want to leave any of her dogs behind after she passed. Seems like a responsible owner, though I'm sure a remaining dog would still have lived a regal life.

OP, I don't find your questions bizarre at all. The world would be a better place if all animal owners were as concerned about the animals fate as you seem to be.

Broken Man 1999
“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go. " -Mark Twain

THY4373
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by THY4373 » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:33 am

This actually reminds me of a sad story. My mother's best friend lived in a high-end neighborhood in the DC area. It had been modest when she moved in 40-50 years before but it became a place where folks tore down houses and built 8 figure mansions due to great location. One of her neighbors was a very old woman of modest means (other than of course the land her modest house now sat on). This woman had a cat whom she adored and my mom's friend who was late middle aged at that time would check in regularly on the older woman. My mom's friend who was a cat person offered to take the lady's cat if necessary when the woman died since she had no family no strings attached. The lady said no she was leaving her house to the person who helped her maintain it (her handy man of sorts) and that he promised to take care of her cat in exchange for the house.

The woman passes away. Guy and his wife move and cat is gone in a week. My mother's friend tried to get them to tell her what they did with it so she could try to rescue it but they were having none of it. Fast forward a few years and they do a complete tear down to build a much larger house. My mother's friend actually had two lots and one only contained her garage and driveway. The lawyer for the couple who had disappeared the cat approached my mother's friend to buy six feet of the lot that had the garage and driveway on it that was not being used in anyway. They needed this space to put their AC units for their newer much larger house. My mother's friends refused, they eventually offered a pretty ridiculous sum too, the lawyer was basically begging my mother's friend to take the money at the end. Finally he asked her point blank why the heck won't you sell us the land you aren't using it. She told him to ask his clients about the cat and that there was no amount of money that they could give her to sell the land because of that. In the end they had to put their AC units up on the roof.

mouses
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by mouses » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:42 am

Good for your mother's friend. I would have looked in the animal shelters, but I suspect the guy didn't even go to that trouble, just drove the cat somewhere and dumped it.

If I had my way, anyone who harmed an animal would be teleported into the sun, and that's probably too good for them.

Mudpuppy
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:32 am

One followup question. Most people responding to this thread seem to be assuming all 100+ animals on the farm are pets, but how many are actually pets and how many are part of the farm? The farm animals that are not pets can be sold to other farms upon your passing. The issue of finding homes for 4 dogs and 20 cats is still hard, but if the remaining animals are farm animals and not pets, that simplifies matters quite a bit.

You might still want to set conditions on what sort of other farms they're sold to, such as organic or free-range farms, but there's a market for farm animals. Your will/trust could also specify hiring a certain number of farm hands (or to keep paying your current employees if you have any) to run the farm while such sales are arranged. Those employees could also tend to the pets while they're being rehomed, and if they've worked there for a while, they might be willing to be the new owner of at least some of the pets.

And if they are all considered to be pets, then you might want to think outside of the box and turn your hobby farm into a non-profit rescue, with the farm becoming an asset of the non-profit rather than an asset of your estate and with your estate providing enough funding to the non-profit upon your passing to keep it up and running. Then you could get volunteers and employees now who would know how the farm is run and who could keep things running after your passing. It takes a lot of work to get a non-profit rescue to a sustainable state so new people can take over managing it though, particularly one with large monthly expenses like a farm rescue.

123
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by 123 » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:40 am

The most practical (and reliable) solution may be to simply reduce the size of your animal menagerie (over time) through attrition and redirect your concern with animals to organizations and movements. If you care for animals of your own you care for only those animals, if your contributions and efforts through an organization inspire others to join the cause you will have a much greater and enduring impact.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

Mudpuppy
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Mudpuppy » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:46 am

mouses wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:42 am
Good for your mother's friend. I would have looked in the animal shelters, but I suspect the guy didn't even go to that trouble, just drove the cat somewhere and dumped it.

If I had my way, anyone who harmed an animal would be teleported into the sun, and that's probably too good for them.
And that's another reason to get a reputable attorney to set up the pet trust and to be careful in selecting who oversees the trust, if that is the route the OP chooses to take. A pet trust only works as intended if there is someone to enforce its rules, which means either a very trusted friend/relative or a non-partial, reputable third party like an attorney who gets paid through the trust to oversee the trust. And who you might think is a trusted friend (e.g. the handyman in the story) may be hiding ulterior motives, so a paid third party might be the safer option unless you have someone who you have known closely for decades who you have discussed your wishes with and who has agreed to carry them out.

THY4373
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by THY4373 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:46 am

mouses wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:42 am
Good for your mother's friend. I would have looked in the animal shelters, but I suspect the guy didn't even go to that trouble, just drove the cat somewhere and dumped it.

If I had my way, anyone who harmed an animal would be teleported into the sun, and that's probably too good for them.
She actually did go to several local shelters but the cat wasn't there and she put up signs in neighborhood for "lost" cat. I agree it was probably dumped elsewhere sadly.

THY4373
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by THY4373 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:47 am

Mudpuppy wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:46 am

And that's another reason to get a reputable attorney to set up the pet trust and to be careful in selecting who oversees the trust, if that is the route the OP chooses to take. A pet trust only works as intended if there is someone to enforce its rules, which means either a very trusted friend/relative or a non-partial, reputable third party like an attorney who gets paid through the trust to oversee the trust. And who you might think is a trusted friend (e.g. the handyman in the story) may be hiding ulterior motives, so a paid third party might be the safer option unless you have someone who you have known closely for decades who you have discussed your wishes with and who has agreed to carry them out.
I completely agree unfortunately the woman was too trusting.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by oldcomputerguy » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:51 am

notmyhand wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:44 pm
Has anyone made after-life plans for their animals that weren't as simple as "my mother will take my two small dogs?"
We're not on the same scale as you (we only have two dogs and one cat). But yes, we put a provision in our will specifying that a dollar sum from the estate be set aside for use by our regular pet sitter for purposes of re-homing our pets and caring for them until that happens.
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

DarthSage
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by DarthSage » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:53 am

No real advice, but I want to say that it's very thoughtful of you to be considering this now. It doesn't hurt to reach out to shelters/animal agencies NOW, in case of your untimely passing. But I think further down the road, it may be easier for you to decrease your animals through attrition. It seems far away now, but it may be that, in a few decades, you simply can't care for 100 animals, and start cutting down your numbers naturally.

P.S. Anyone who tells you that re-homing animals is easy is full of crap. My sister lives right by Navy Housing. We kid her about being a crazy cat lady, but it's not like she goes looking for more cats--people move, and just ditch them. She keeps them fed, spayed, vaccinated. The poor animals have to suffer for the cruelty of humans...

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BolderBoy
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by BolderBoy » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:45 am

Gill wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:57 pm
Yes, speak to the animal rescue organization. Our local cat rescue organization offers an arrangement whereby they will guarantee care of your cats for their lives in exchange for a bequest to the organization. Gill
This. Lots of the animal organizations around here will do the same.
"Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities" - The Dunning-Kruger Effect

fantasytensai
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by fantasytensai » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:21 pm

notmyhand wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:44 pm
This may be a bizarre question to many of you but I'm hoping someone can relate and has thought about it. DH and I live on a hobby farm and have about ~100 animals between the farm animals like chickens, four large dogs, and about twenty cats. We want to leave the majority of our relatively minor estate to any future children but we also want to make sure our animals are taken care of and we don't really want to burden the executor with trying to find homes for all of the animals. I am considering leaving the property (which will hopefully be paid off by the time we pass) to a relative that is willing to take care of the animals but I find that even if a relative agrees now, situations will likely change in the future. Therefore I am considering speaking with the animal rescue we volunteer with to see if I can leave them a certain amount and if they would be willing to then re-home the animals. Has anyone made after-life plans for their animals that weren't as simple as "my mother will take my two small dogs?" Interested in hearing how this issue is being dealt with.

Thanks for your thoughts!
This suggestion is going to sound bizarre, but there are a lot of nature lovers (myself included), whose dream is to own a farm like yours. Maybe instead of passing the farm to your relative, you can try to sell it to someone like that? Provide a little discount for the added hassle (though to me personally it would be a plus) of caring for the animals, and interview your prospective buyers vigorously. This way rather than burdening a relative with this stipulation, you can find a stranger that share your love for animals?

Edit: also not to mention that your animals would not need to move in that situation!

researcher
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by researcher » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:41 pm

notmyhand wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:44 pm
~100 animals between the farm animals like chickens, four large dogs, and about twenty cats.
I would start following Bob Barker's advice on pets.

So if you have 24 dogs/cats, what do the 76 other farm animals consist of?
Do you treat these 76 farm animals as pets or livestock?

Nyc10036
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Nyc10036 » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:14 pm

fantasytensai wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:21 pm
This way rather than burdening a relative with this stipulation, you can find a stranger that share your love for animals?

The OP hasn't answered yet whether these farm animals are livestock which are sold for slaughter or rescues which get to spend the rest of their lives safe.

notmyhand
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by notmyhand » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:22 pm

Nyc10036 wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:14 pm
fantasytensai wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:21 pm
This way rather than burdening a relative with this stipulation, you can find a stranger that share your love for animals?

The OP hasn't answered yet whether these farm animals are livestock which are sold for slaughter or rescues which get to spend the rest of their lives safe.
They are semi-livestock in the manner that the chickens don't get slaughtered, we eat the eggs, the goats don't get slaughtered, they provide milk, and the remainder of the animals are shown and produce offspring which are sold. We lose money on the ordeal but recoup a little. I would not mind the animals being sold to hobby farms but they are not suitable for production farms (heritage chickens for example so little meat on them).

And for everyone suggesting we downsize, we're only in our late 20s so we have awhile to go before we will want to but yes I agree that as we get up there in age, we will certainly downsize and not replace.

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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by JGoneRiding » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:52 pm

tschaefges wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:09 am
If your state allows it, you might consider a pet trust. We have one in Illinois. You can set up a trust to fund your animals' care with the residual going wherever you want. That way you know the money will not be spent on anything else.
You still need some trusted person to administer the trust. Since this is a significant burden and it doesn't nec sound like there is enough funds this can be a real problem. As already stated you need a non profit that has agreed to it or a relative that really cares.

But frankly I think you are to early. You said still maybe kids probably you will have a lot less animals when a real issue. Of that isn't likely then I suggest you safe a lot extra. I am being sat upon by the one I took in when her little old lady died. We actually thought there was money in the will (actually I still think there was) but none was given to either the rescue she supported for years or to those who had already agreed to take all her pets. May her son rot.....sweetest old lady you ever did meet and he ordered the animals out of the house the very night she died!

mouses
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by mouses » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:20 am

JGoneRiding wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:52 pm
tschaefges wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:09 am
If your state allows it, you might consider a pet trust. We have one in Illinois. You can set up a trust to fund your animals' care with the residual going wherever you want. That way you know the money will not be spent on anything else.
You still need some trusted person to administer the trust. Since this is a significant burden and it doesn't nec sound like there is enough funds this can be a real problem. As already stated you need a non profit that has agreed to it or a relative that really cares.

But frankly I think you are to early. You said still maybe kids probably you will have a lot less animals when a real issue. Of that isn't likely then I suggest you safe a lot extra. I am being sat upon by the one I took in when her little old lady died. We actually thought there was money in the will (actually I still think there was) but none was given to either the rescue she supported for years or to those who had already agreed to take all her pets. May her son rot.....sweetest old lady you ever did meet and he ordered the animals out of the house the very night she died!
I wonder if you can somehow see the will. Are wills public records? It probably does not matter to you financially, but it might matter to the rescue group.

Something similar to your last paragraph happened where I used to live. There was an elderly lady who lived with her mentally retarded (I know this is no longer an accepted term but I forget the new one) grandson and their cat. The lady passed away and her family put the young man in an institution and dumped the cat out into the neighborhood. I took in the cat.

The moral of this is, unless you are certain you have trustworthy people lined up, be very very careful.

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Chicken lady
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by Chicken lady » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:27 am

Make a point of being involved in your local/county agricultural organizations so you get to know others in your area that might have a 'natural' inclination to take your animals when the time comes. Your county agent - agricultural extension office - is a good place to begin in getting involved or more knowledgeable about other farmers in your area. The agents themselves seem to have a pretty good idea of what's going on in their area of oversight - farmers tend to keep in touch and share their plans in an informal network. Of course, it all depends upon the agent and how they relate to people.

Whether you'd want to sell the animals or rehome them - you have to be careful about who ultimately takes over care of your animals. There are still some inhumane activities that occur on a regular basis that are under most people's radar (cock fighting for example) for which unscrupulous actors are always looking for 'bait' for their fighting cocks to practice on.

Also, if you're in a rural area, there is probably an attorney or two who have special knowledge or experience in dealing with farm liquidation/redistribution of livestock. Ask around and see if you can find out who falls in this category - your county agent might know who has handled recent farm sales/animal rehoming. Not that he or she will be an expert but they might be able to point you to someone to talk to. Many rural attorneys have hobby farms themselves.

Glad that you're planning ahead.

stan1
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by stan1 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:48 am

notmyhand wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:22 pm

And for everyone suggesting we downsize, we're only in our late 20s so we have awhile to go before we will want to but yes I agree that as we get up there in age, we will certainly downsize and not replace.
Good that you are planning ahead but right now unless you have a terminal medical diagnosis the odds of needing an executor because you and your husband pass away are very low. It is impossible to put in place an estate plan that covers all possible contingencies and outcomes. The best approach is to find someone who you trust to serve as an executor and give that person the resources and flexibility to carry out your wishes. In the case of the animals I'd find an executor who is also an animal lover and I'd provide them with a list of neighbors, area hobby farmers, and organizations who will rehome the animals. Even among hobby farmers not everyone will share the same views on how to handle barn cats, chickens that don't lay eggs, and goats that don't produce milk so you'd want someone who shares your views to be making the decisions.

Once you have children you will need to update your estate planning documents. The people who will best care for your kids might not be the same people who will best care for your animals.

DarthSage
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Re: estate planning with animals

Post by DarthSage » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:17 am

In addition to the PP's recommendations (local attorney, etc.), keep your antennae up when showing your chickens, etc. You probably have friends from the fairs, etc. who share your passion for heritage chickens and so forth, who could be a good potential landing pad for some animals. While we never owned livestock, we did live rural for 20 years, and I knew many people who raised/showed various animals. They seemed to be nice, tightly-knit groups--your cow people, your sheep people, your oxen people (turned out to be our pediatrician's nurse!). Cultivating those relationships can be a huge help to you--they would appreciate your animals and your viewpoint towards them.

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