Horse owners know their animals require a great deal of care, but the effort is well worth it. Meeting the daily needs of a horse requires a regular investment of time and money. Beyond that, owning a horse is just not for everyone, which makes many owners anxious about what will happen to their horses in the event of their own passing. We know life can be stressful life when a loved one passes. This difficult period is made even more difficult when there has been no estate planning. Survivors often find themselves scrambling to get a loved one’s financial assets and possessions in order—a task that makes grieving harder. This period of life affects horses, too. Their wellbeing is jeopardized when they have been left out of estate planning. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence. Since a horse’s lifespan can range up to 30 years, it is not uncommon for a horse to outlive its owner. If you have not planned for your horse’s future following your death, the time to begin is now.
First, you must find caretakers; you many need at least one interim caretaker who will care for your horse until the permanent caretaker is able to assume ownership. Immediately following your demise, the horse will continue to need food, shelter, and exercise. For a temporary period, the designated caretaker could keep your horse at your property until ownership has properly transferred. Ideally, this support would be found in a trusted individual who already knows the horse and can easily access your stable or transport your horse to their stable. When selecting your horse’s new permanent owner, consider friends, family, fellow riding club members, or 4-H participants you know. You want to pick someone who wants the horse and the responsibilities that go with it: food, shelter, and health maintenance. For the sake of stability and an easier transition for the hourse, the new owner must also have the time and money to invest in the animal that you love.
Keep in mind how much money your caretakers will need to care for your horse immediately following your death. This can be a crippling expense if it were to fall into someone’s lap without warning. When that happens, many have no choice but to sell the horse. For that reason, you should consider leaving a portion of your financial assets for the care of your horse. This is something wisely included in a will at your discretion; however, wills take time to execute. It could be a while before any assets are bestowed to anyone. Speak with your attorney about creating a trust specifically for your horse. Doing so can give the caretaker immediate access to a portion of your money and property for horse care.
Once you know who will care for your horse and what resources they will need, you are ready to put it in writing. Prior to meeting with your attorney for estate planning, be sure your caretaker is committed to the plan. It is more likely that your wishes will be honored if official estate planning has been completed, but be prepared to make necessary changes and updates as you and your horse continue down life’s trail.
Your eventual passing can be difficult for your horse. With proper planning and the right people in your corner, however, you can help to ensure that, when you are gone, your horse and its care are in the best possible hands.