Estate Planning Reminder – Planning for Pets

Dogs, cats, parakeets, horses, iguanas, ferrets…no matter the pet you have in your life, chances are you treat them more like family than just a possession. We want to make sure our pets are comfortable, have the best food, have plenty of entertainment, are healthy, and enjoy a long, happy life. It is possible to make sure that those conditions exist for pets even after pet owners pass away. By utilizing a trust, you can help make sure that your best friend is well taken care of.

Pet Trusts

A recent article in USA Today talks about the function that a pet trust can serve. Pet care can be very expensive. There are grooming costs, medical costs, food costs, and other costs related to keeping a pet. Generally, the bigger the pet, the greater the cost of care can be. In fact, the article notes that Americans spent roughly $62.8 billion on pet care in 2016. While pet trusts are certainly less common than trusts created for human heirs, they can serve an important purpose in making sure that any pets you have can enjoy the same quality of life after your passing that you were able to provide for them.

As the article notes, pet trusts can accomplish many of the same goals as traditional trusts. They help ensure assets can pass to a beneficiary without having to go through probate and can be useful in providing funding for ongoing care. Typically, a pet trust will name a trustee that you trust to provide care for the animals covered by the trust. These trusts can help make sure your pet does not end up in a shelter where it could become traumatized and eventually be euthanized. A pet trust will allow you to dictate the terms in which care is provided to your pet and help determine when or if euthanasia may be an option in case of serious illness. Additionally, you can set specific terms for the care of your pet such as the type of food you wish your pet to be fed, the specific veterinarian you want to provide medical care for your pet, and many other terms regarding various aspects of pet care.

Pet trusts can also involve investment management components that help produce income to grow the trust from the initial amount deposited into it. If you already have an existing trust, its provisions may allow you to structure it in a way that includes a provision for pet care. This can sometimes be done simply by adding an addendum to the original trust, and an experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the circumstances under which your trust can be modified if it is able to be modified at all. While you can just leave funds and other care instructions to a family member or friend, only a trust guarantees that the caretaker will not simply squander the money on other things while your pet is neglected. Additionally, leaving funds to an individual for pet care purposes through a Will can delay access to those funds as your estate makes its way through probate. In such cases, any costly emergencies that arise before the caretaker receives funding to address them may pose a risk to your pet’s safety.


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