Pet Trusts: How to Protect Your Precious Pets After You’re Gone

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Pet ownership comes with many benefits like companionship, support, and comfort. They help with the emotional and physical well-being of their owners. In fact, having a pet helps combat anxiety, loneliness, and depression. For these reasons, it makes sense that pets become beloved family members or companions.

The Basics of Pet Trusts

You are the primary caregiver for your pet. You provide water and food, a home, and you take them to regular veterinarian visits. You may have even taken care of their final arrangements, as pets often precede their owners in death.

However, have you thought about what happens if your pet outlives you? How will you make sure your precious pet is taken care of when you can no longer do it? A pet trust can give you peace of mind regarding the caretaking of your pet.

What happens if you don’t make provisions for your dog, cat, or other pets in case something happens to you? Often, these pets are taken to shelters where they can be euthanized within 72 hours at most shelters. A lucky few are adopted, but there is no guarantee.

Pet Trust for your Pets

You may consider your pet a member of your family, but the law categorizes your pet as property. You cannot leave money to the pet, but you can leave money to a trusted caregiver with stipulations about how to care for your pet and how the money is to be spent. Without a trust, the likelihood that your pet will wind up in a shelter is high.

Arizona, the District of Columbia, and 42 more states now have laws that allow you to leave money in a trust for the care of your pet should something happen to you. Pet trusts include an agreement that outlines the terms regarding the care of your pet, who will be the pet’s caregiver, and how the funds will be paid out for their care. Any money left over after the pet dies, will be distributed among your heirs or the beneficiaries that you designate.

The amount of money you place in trust for your pet is dependent upon the level of care you give your pet. The considerations are as follows.

  • Food
  • Kennel/Boarding
  • Grooming
  • Vitamins
  • Medications
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Travel
  • Routine Veterinary Care
  • Surgical/Extraneous Veterinary Care

You can average these expenses or provide an exact financial statement to your pet trust lawyer.

Photo by Anusha Barwa on Unsplash

Considerations for Pet Trusts

Before creating a pet trust, consider the following:

  1. Who will be the permanent caregiver?
  2. For multiple pets, will they all have the same caregiver or different people?
  3. Look at alternative caregivers in case something happens to your chosen caregivers.
  4. Choose a trustee to distribute funds from the pet trust to the caregiver(s).
  5. Who gets any remaining funds if the pet dies?

Protect Your Pets with These Steps

The Humane Society suggests that you take these short-term steps for your pet.

  1. Choose two responsible people that you trust to be your emergency pet caregivers. Provide them with the information and tools needed for your pet. For instance, give them care and feeding instructions, your veterinarian’s name and number, and any information about permanent arrangements.
  2. Get a Pet Alert Card to carry in your wallet that identifies your pet(s) and has pertinent data about your pet.
  3. Let your neighbors know how many pets you own and provide them with the names and numbers of your veterinarian and your emergency caregivers.
  4. Place a note in an obvious place in your home listing all the information needed regarding your pet.

You are your pet’s only source of life-sustaining care, so it is imperative to make short and long-term arrangements to protect them.

Just think, if not for Leona Helmsley, these newer laws would likely not be there to take care of your pet. She left $12 million to Trouble, her dog and the judge reduced that to $2 million and gave the extraneous funds to her other beneficiaries. Luckily, Trouble did live a happy, long life in luxury until 2010 when he died of natural causes.

If you need a pet trust for your beloved pet, or are interested in learning more about pet trusts, feel free to schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let us assist you in your estate planning goals today.

This article is provided as a public service by the Law Offices of C. David Martinez, PLLC. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.

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