Many pet owners see their beloved animals as a part of the family – but if something were to happen, who would make sure Spot was taken care of? Would someone provide him with needed food, water, and medicine? Would he end up at a local animal shelter?
For some, knowing the answer to these questions is worth establishing a pet trust, which are now available in all 50 states.
The term “pet trust” may evoke stories of heirs and heiresses setting aside enormous sums for their pets, but these trusts aren’t just for millionaires. Whether your pet a has a substantial lifespan (think birds or horses) or you simply want to ensure your furry friend will always be looked after, a trust may be the best option for ensuring your pet’s continued care.
- It provides legal assurance. Money placed in the trust must be spent on the pet – and any amount left over when the pet dies will be distributed according to your specific instruction. The same assurance of care isn’t provided if you simply leave money to a pet caretaker in a will.
- It can be customized. You can leave explicit, detailed instructions for your pet’s care.
- It applies while you’re alive. The trust will ensure your pet’s care if you become unable to provide care due to age or illness, while a will would only take effect at your passing.
Tips for Establishing a Pet Trust
- Consider funding options. Talk to your financial advisor about your choices, including the possibility of using life insurance proceeds.
- Choose the right caregiver. Select someone who’s both willing and capable, and encourage him or her to name successors as a precaution.
- Name a separate trustee. This can help avoid potential conflicts of interest.
- Be specific. Determine where you want leftover assets to go when your pet dies. Bear in mind that leaving them to the pet caregiver could create a conflict of interest.
You’ve carefully crafted an estate plan that will provide for your loved ones – now, consider whether a trust for your animal companion fits in as a piece of that larger plan.