Pet estate planning is growing in popularity as more jurisdictions have begun allowing residents to create legal documents to provide for their animals after death. Pet trusts are becoming an important part of the New York estate planning process as New York is one of forty five states that permit owners to create these entities.
Yesterday, North Jersey News discussed the increasing use of pet trusts across the country. Many claim that the widely reported New York trust created by Leona Helmsley for her dog, Trouble, spurred the rise in popularity of the animal care giving option. Many area residents consider their beloved dogs, cats, birds and other animals to be members of their families, and so it is logical for those individuals to provide for their pets as part of their New York estate plan. Pet trusts are legal agreements which explain how an owner wants their animal to be provided for when they are no longer around. This includes the ability to leave money for the animal’s care and designate specific individuals as trustee and guardian of the pet.
As with all planning documents, a New York pet trust should be carefully worded to ensure that animal friends are quickly turned over to designated caregivers when the time comes. Disputes may arise regarding the amount of money left to the animal, and so proper drafting of these trusts is essential. The basic amount to be left is usually reached by multiplying the animal’s expected lifespan by the annual cost of care. Discovering that cost involves going through pet records to get an accurate accounting of how much money is spent on the pet each year. Food, grooming, veterinary bills, and other expenses add up quickly–sometimes the trust may even be funded with several hundred thousand dollars.
Besides setting aside funds for the animal’s care, designating a trustee and guardian is crucial in the pet trust process. One animal advocate explained that, “much like an adoption, the goal is to make sure it will be a good match. You may love your best friend or family member, but they may not be a dog person.” If necessary one individual can assume the role of the trustee while a different person can become the pet’s actual guardian. As with all planning documents, proper review is important to ensure that the plan is updated and can help your animal at the moment needed.
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