Step By Step Plan for Creating a “Pet Trust” to Protect Your Pet After Your Death.
In my previous article, I talked about what to take into consideration when you’re planning for your pet’s care in the event of your incapacity or your death. This week, I’m going to give you a step by step plan for creating a pet trust to provide for your companion animal(s) if you cannot be there. Pet trusts have been around for a while!
Now, let’s get down to some practical steps you can take for the future of your beloved friend.
A Will is Not Enough
You might think that merely including a letter laying out the specifics of your pet’s care with your will is sufficient to provide care for your companion animals. However, the directions in your will won’t take effect until the estate is administered. In the meantime, what happens to your pet? If there’s no provision for their immediate care you may as well have just made an informal agreement. Remember, informal agreements are not enforceable.
Trusts Lead to Peace of Mind
When you have money in a trust for your animals it gives their future caretaker the ability to fund their needs. Not only that, but it gives them the ability to take care of your pet in exactly the way you want them to. A trust is a legal arrangement that dictates how your pets, will be cared for if you pass away before they do.
Currently, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have pet trust laws. Most of them state that they can be created for the care of animals alive during your lifetime. (Some also allow you to make a trust for animals in gestation, like if your dog has a litter of puppies on the way). Many states specify that the trust will be enforced throughout the lifetime of the pet, though some may just have a set number of years.
Step One: Name a Trustee
While you should have a caregiver (or two!) listed, you should also hire a trustee to be responsible for administering pet-care funds. Giving the money to the beneficiary in a lump sum is not always the best option. Even with a well-intentioned caretaker, you want to make sure your pet has what it needs throughout it’s entire life. And remember—you’ll want to provide money to pay the trustee for the work they’ll be doing to manage the trust.
Step Two: Specifically Identify Your Pet in the Trust
You don’t want somebody running a scam to get the trust money that is meant for your pet. Believe it or not, it happens! You can use detailed descriptions, photos, microchip numbers, and even DNA samples to make sure your pet, or pets, are easily identifiable by the trustee.
Step Three: Provide REALLY Detailed Information About Your Pet’s Care
Previously I recommended you make a complete plan for your pet’s care. I want to emphasize that it’s important to go through every eventuality. That means more than just day to day care. Try to create a step by step plan for the care of your pet: Daily routine, weekly routine, etc. You also should try to set money aside for major vet bills, end-of-life care, and cremation or burial. Additionally, you may want to consider having a plan for what to do with any remaining trust money when your pet passes.
Step Four: Think Creatively About Funding
If you’re worried you don’t have that much cash on hand to put into the trust, remember that you probably have other assets to draw from too. That could include life insurance policies, annuity contracts, savings accounts, or money gained from the sale of physical assets.
Need Help with your Plan for Creating a Pet Trust?
Drawing a blank on possible pet care issues? Unsure what assets can help fund your pet trust? As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you figure out the answer to any questions you may have about building a trust for your pet. We want to help you take care of what matters most in your life. And let’s face it, pets are family!
This article is a service of Elena Ortega-Tauler, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents. We ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before. We are here to empower you to make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.