Here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have previously covered that Britney Spears is currently going through a divorce from her husband Sam Asghari. Her husband filed for divorce after less than two years of marriage. A divorce is not an easy time for anyone let alone for a celebrity who has previously battled mental health crises and a difficult time exiting a conservatorship where her daily life and major decisions were controlled by her father, Jamie Spears.
However, it seems that Ms. Spears purchased a new puppy only a day after she and her husband reached an agreement on how to divide custody of their other dogs together. At first glance, this may seem like a relatively silly topic for us to be covering here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Why should we be concerned with how a celebrity and her husband divide up time with their pets in preparation for divorce? In truth, this is not a major concern for us and surely the world will continue to rotate on its axis no matter how Britney Spears decides an issue regarding her dogs.
With that said, this is an interesting subject for us to talk about here on our blog today given that the Law Office of Bryan Fagan practices both in the areas of family law, guardianship, and estate planning. Therefore, we have a perspective on this subject that many other attorneys may not have. If you are interested, Ms. Spears will retain custody of four dogs of the marriage, and her soon-to-be ex-husband will retain custody of one dog.
Custody arrangements for dogs are not treated in the same way as custody arrangements for children. Whereas two people going through a divorce will spend a great deal of time going through different arrangements and possibilities for the custody of their children it is obvious that custody of dogs will not be as heated a topic. With that said, it is still worth talking about how dogs factor into the dissolution of a marriage as they count as property. You and your family may be able to apply some of the lessons regarding property division based on the information we share in this blog post today.
How is property divided in a Texas divorce?
Texas is a community property state when it comes to the division of marital property. All this means is that the state of Texas and here’s to principles related to community property when it comes to dividing your marital assets in the divorce. For starters, at the beginning of your divorce, it is presumed that all property owned by you and your spouse is community property. The next thing you need to understand is that community property in Texas is subject to division in the divorce case. Therefore, you need to be aware that at the beginning of your divorce, it is presumed that every item you own can be divided in your divorce.
The presumption in favor of community property can be overcome with evidence showing that pieces of property are what is known as separate property belonging to either you or your spouse. Separate property consists of property owned before your marriage by either you or your spouse or acquired during the marriage either by gift, inheritance, or personal injury settlement. The list of separate property that you own may be substantially smaller than your community property, or vice versa, depending upon the length of your marriage. If you are married young and have been married for a long time, then you probably own very little separate property. On the other hand, you may own quite a bit of separate property if you have only been married for a short period.
This is the basic framework for how property will be divided in your divorce. Bear in mind, that the laws on Community property can be more complex than what we just covered here. This was a very brief and general overview of community property law in Texas. However, you need to understand these basics before moving forward with your divorce. These basic rules will determine how you negotiate your divorce and approach the crucial issues related to your case from this perspective.
Estate planning matters in pet ownership
I think we can all agree that currently, pet ownership has taken on a life of its own. No longer are pet owners content to spend time with their furry friends after work and take them on walks. Rather, many of us now see our pets as extensions of our actual family and in some cases as being akin to children. What this means is that pets have become an even more important part of our lives and may factor into more of your planning than just pet custody in a divorce scenario.
When it comes to our four-legged friends, these animals play a larger part in our lives now than at any time in our history as a country. Pets used to be companions that we would care for and play with when time permitted. Now, as pets take on a larger part of our lives, we can also see that these animals may factor into our estate planning as well. One of the realities of pet ownership is that pets are not like children in many ways. One of those ways where pets are not like children is that a pet will not grow up to be able to take care of him or herself. If your pets are alive, they will require someone else to care for them.
as a result, you may have concerns about who will take care of your pets after you pass away and how that care will be managed. Estate planning law in Texas allows for trusts to be created that will benefit your pets. Not coincidentally, these trusts are known as pet trusts. In some situations, we are not talking about pets like a dog or a cat. If you own livestock, horses, or specialty pets that require a degree of care greater than a dog or a cat then this blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is for you. We are going to cover what a pet trust is and how it may be beneficial to you and your family.
How can you set up care for your pet on a short-term basis?
In the short term, there are steps you can take to ensure the short-term care of your pets is maintained even in situations where you become disabled or incapacitated in some way. These tools are not incredibly time-consuming to pursue and as a result, you can begin to implement them relatively quickly. At the very least, you can set up an emergency contact so that a person knows who to reach out to in the event of an emergency regarding one of your pets. This could be something as simple as something that you carry around on your person to identify the names and breeds of your pets as well as any special needs that they may have. A location of where they live and any other information that may be needed when it comes to retrieving the pet can be helpful for a person if something were to happen to you.
If you own livestock or a special type of pet then you should include information about who can help gain access to the animal if you are unable to do so. If you have never spoken with anyone else about helping to care for your pet, then now would be a sensible time to do that. A neighbor, friend, family member, veterinary clinic, or other group could be well situated to help you in the event of an emergency. Once you have secured the name of someone who can help you care for your pet moving forward that person’s name should appear on the emergency card that you carry with you. That way first responders or other people who come to your aid can find the card and begin to make necessary plans for taking care of your pets for as long as you are unable to do so.
A power of attorney is a legal arrangement that allows you to name an individual who can make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney allows for the person named to have decision-making authority immediately. On the other hand, a springing power of attorney would go into effect in the event you become incapacitated. For much of estate planning, we talk about powers of attorney as being relevant for financial and medical circumstances. However, it is entirely possible that you would like to create a power of attorney form that covers matters related to your animals and pets.
You should think hard about whether there is a person in your life that you would like to name as an agent on your behalf. Even if you include language regarding your pets in a durable power of attorney then that should be able to help ensure that someone is available to help care for your animals from a financial perspective. If you have additional concerns about attention being paid to your animals, then you can specify that in the power of attorney document. Think about expenses like food bills, vet bills, and the daily expenses that are associated with raising an animal. You can try to get as specific as possible in your power of attorney document bearing in mind that you need to have a great amount of trust in the person who is managing the affairs of your dog, cat, or other animal while you are unable to do so.
How to plan for your animal’s well-being in the long term
Emergency planning surrounding your pets is a great idea. Embarking upon a journey towards emergency pet care planning is certainly worth your time. Remember that if an emergency strikes and you become unable to care for your pet then it will be too late to begin creating a document like a power of attorney. As a result, the more planning you can do ahead of time the better off you and your family will be.
When it comes to estate planning and your pets, it is wise to remember that your pets are not human beings. No matter how close you consider your pets to be people they simply are not treated that way under the law. Rather, pets fall under the category of personal property. In this way, a pet is treated similarly to any other household item or thing that you own.
If you were to pass away, have you given any thought to how you want your animals to be cared for? We at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan realized that it is not necessarily a pleasant experience to have to think about your death and what can happen to your animals after you pass away. Surely, you want what is best for your animals. However, if you have not necessarily put a lot of thought into how they are going to be cared for after you pass away then you are doing them a disservice. While nobody wants anything to happen to you unexpectedly the reality of life is that none of us know the moment that will be our last here on earth. With that said, planning for these situations is essential if you want to cover all your bases and do all that you can to care for your animals.
There are long-term, estate planning methods that you can utilize to care for your pets. Using trusts and specialized pet trusts to care for your animals after you have passed away are two methods of long-term pet care that you may choose to utilize. If using a trust to care for your animals on a long-term basis does not suit you, then you can consider naming a caretaker for your animals in your will. On the one hand, if you have a pet who does not require a great deal of immediate care or attention then naming a caretaker in your will is a good idea. That person could simply step in were you to pass away and could make decisions on behalf of the animal in your absence.
However, if you find yourself in a position where you have animals that require more assistance or immediate care, such as livestock or other farm animals, then creating a trust may be the better decision. The reason this may be is that trust goes into effect much sooner and can help your pet even while you are still alive. Speaking to an experienced estate planning attorney about what may work better for you and your family is a tremendous idea. Rather than speculate about which arrangement would work better, you can receive honest and candid advice from an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan before you decide how to move forward when it comes to planning on a long-term basis for your pet.
A traditional trust can go into effect immediately during your life or be a testamentary trust which would go into effect after you pass away. You would include funds in the trust that would go towards the care of your animal. You would name it caretaker for your animal in the trust and you would also name a trustee to administer the trust and ensure that the property for your pet is being managed in that animal’s best interests.
On the other hand, you could also create a pet trust which would permit you to create a trust that allows for the care of your animal during your life. This means that you would not need to wait until you’re passing to engage in some kind of estate planning or trust creation on behalf of your animal. A pet trust, as you may imagine, is not necessarily a complex document or legal creation. This is one of the benefits of a pet trust given that you do not need to engage in as much planning or be as specific in the decisions regarding the terms of the trust as you would in a typical trust creation arrangement. If you create a pet trust it would end as soon as the last remaining pet covered by the trust passes away. The bottom line is you want to make sure that there is adequate funding for your pet and a pet trust may be better suited to serve you and your pet in this capacity.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed estate planning attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas estate planning as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a probate case.