Pet trusts and other options are now increasingly accessible for pet owners who wish to provide for their furry friends when they can’t, and they’re not just for the wealthy. Setting up a pet trust ensures that your beloved animals are well cared for in your absence.
To begin, determine the level of care and annual cost for your pet. Costs can vary greatly depending on factors such as pet type, breed, health, and diet. If you have multiple pets, consider which one is most likely to outlive you. Take into account expenses like food, pet insurance, vet care, medications, and supplements, as well as any additional care your pet may need as they age.
Compile a list of preferred veterinarians, groomers, daycare facilities, pet walkers, food, sleeping preferences, treats, toys, and any other specific information someone should know in case you are unable to provide it.
Next, choose a suitable trustee and caretaker, ensuring they are willing to serve in these roles. Since pets are considered property and cannot legally own assets, leaving an inheritance to them or naming them as beneficiaries is not an option. Instead, you should designate a caregiver and a trustee who will oversee the finances and ensure funds are used for your pet’s care. The caretaker will ideally provide a loving home for your pet. Compensation for these roles is common, so factor this into your cost analysis.
To formalize your wishes, put them in writing. While you may include your pet care request in your will, it’s important to note that there is no guarantee or legal enforcement if you go this route. Informal agreements for pet care can be even less reliable. To ensure the best care for your pet, have your estate planning attorney create a pet trust.
Regularly review your pet trust documents to ensure they accurately reflect your wishes, especially if you relocate or if caregivers pass away.
Fund your pet trust by transferring assets into it, enabling the trustee to distribute them to the caregiver. Your estate planning attorney can discuss ways to fund the trust upon your death if you prefer.
Lastly, provide directions for any remaining funds after your pet’s death. Consider specifying beneficiaries, such as individuals, groups, or organizations. It’s generally not recommended to leave remaining funds to the caregiver or trustee to avoid any potential conflicts of interest regarding your pet’s care.
Estate planning for pets is an easily overlooked aspect of preparing for the future. However, as a responsible pet parent, you can find peace of mind knowing you’ve taken steps to ensure your pet enjoys a long and happy life, even in your absence.