It is something only pet owners truly understand: We love our pets and, to us, they are part of our family. When preparing an estate plan, you probably want to leave a gift and legacy for your beloved friend. At minimum, you want to make sure your pet is provided for and lives a happy, comfortable life.
However, the law has not provided for leaving financial gifts to pets in a will. Although a will can have some value, you need a more creative approach to making sure your pet is provided for.
A pet trust
A pet trust is a great way to ensure your pet is cared for appropriately after you are gone. A pet trust will allow you to:
- Make sure someone is designated to care for your pet
- Make sure there is a distribution of money to cover the costs of caring for the pet
- Make sure the person responsible for your pet is not using that money for other purposes while neglecting your pet
- Make sure someone is appointed to ensure the caretaker is doing his or her job and not misallocating funds
Although establishing a pet trust can involve numerous complications, an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you through the process.
The first step is naming your pet as a beneficiary. Then you name someone to be the responsible caretaker and establish funding. The funding can be a one-time transfer or ongoing withdrawal from an account. Then you name someone to manage the trust, to make sure the distributions go out to the caretaker regularly according to the trust’s instructions and make sure the caretaker is using the funds appropriately.
A trust of this kind can include any type of reasonable instructions for caring for your pet. If there is a particular dog food or cat food your pet prefers, or if there are certain amenities your beloved pet has come to expect, you can enumerate these instructions in the trust.