Whether they are for racing or riding, your horses need you to plan for their future. Don’t make the mistake of thinking someone will step up and take care of it automatically.
Ensuring that your horses receive the care that you want after you pass away can happen—as long as you do the proper planning and dig deep into the details. You’ll need to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to accomplish this, according to thehorse.com’s “Estate Planning Tips for Horse Owners.”
Your horses’ future can be challenging to formulate, but it’s important for a successful transition and for determining and specifying with precision what you want. Selecting a responsible person to be in charge who will make wise decisions for your horse is key. Some racehorses may be sold, which can be done through private sales or at an auction and might result in a greater amount of money for your estate. However, retired or special needs horses might be more difficult to sell or place in good homes. Some owners leave money for their care and designate a beneficiary to receive the horse and those funds.
Similarly, it’s important to be specific regarding who will inherit your belongings. You’ll need to be able to assign an accurate value on items like trophies, saddles, artwork and farm equipment. Bear in mind that an executor with little horse knowledge may not know that your custom silver-covered Western show saddle is worth thousands of dollars. Have these items appraised in advance if at all possible.
If you own land, you might want to ensure that the property doesn’t end up becoming a shopping mall. A good way to do this is with what is called a conservation easement. This is a legal agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development on the land. Conservation easements are helpful in that they include income tax and land preservation benefits. On the downside, the easement can decrease the land’s value and make it more difficult to sell. This limits the potential of its future use.
Negotiating conservation easements can also be complicated, so work with an attorney who is familiar with them to evaluate whether this might be a good option for your estate and your legacy.
If you own an equine business, you need to decide what you want the future of the business to be when you pass away. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you decide what to do and then address all of the related issues.
The critical and final part is to get all of this in writing. Your wishes alone won’t do it. Set up a meeting with an estate planning attorney to discuss your wishes for your horses, land and other assets. Determine whether you need to have trusts, conservation easements or other documents drawn up and executed. It is best to do this well in advance so that your decisions can be made with a clear mind.
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