Many people with children give a great deal of consideration as to who will take care of them if something were to happen to both parents. But what about the furry members of our families? Without a written, clearly defined plan, your pets could end up in a shelter or euthanized. That’s why it is such a good idea to have a pet trust. A pet trust gives you a legally binding document that lets you determine how your pets are cared for after you have died.

A pet trust allows you to set aside funds to be used exclusively for the care of your pets and establishes a plan that ensures your pets will be taken care of for their lifetimes. You can even have your trust written to include all the pets you have at the time of your death, not just the ones you have at the time the trust was written.

The problem with leaving your pets to someone in your will is there is no legal obligation for that person to care for your pets or to use estate funds for the care of your pets. Rather than giving the caretaker a lump sum payment as you would in a will, a pet trust allows for funds to be withdrawn as needed or paid on the schedule of your choosing (such as monthly or yearly). This prevents the caretaker from either intentionally or unintentionally spending the money too quickly or for non-pet related purposes.

There are many what-ifs to consider when planning for your pets’ care and a pet trust can help address them. For example, while it may seem logical to leave any remaining funds left at the end of the pets’ lives to the caretaker, there is the chance this could lead to the caretaker putting the pets down earlier than needed in order to pocket the rest of the funds in the trust before they are depleted. If you want to show appreciation to your pets’ caretaker, one option is to leave a flat sum to the caretaker at the end of the pets’ lives with the remainder going to a charity.

If you are still concerned about end-of-life decisions for your pets, you can include a provision in the trust stating that the veterinarian who has been providing care must agree that euthanizing is a reasonable action.  Also, while a pet trust provides much better protection for your pets than a will, it is important to still have a plan in place between the time of your passing and the time your estate is administered in order to ensure the safety and well-being of your pets.

As you can see, there are numerous decisions to be made when planning for the care of your pets. Talking to a qualified estate planning attorney is the best first step to ensuring they go on to have long, happy lives after you are gone.

Contact us today and we can explore all your options.

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