Have You Forgotten A Key Family Member in Your Estate Plan?

By Melissa A. Register Posted in Core Estate Planning

Whether you care for a dutiful Dachshund, a clowder of cats, or a bevy of bunnies, you probably devote a lot of attention to your pets. You work hard to care for them and provide them with love and affection. But have you given serious thought about what would happen to them if you became incapacitated or die?

Attaining peace of mind requires more than just getting the “big stuff” in order. Establishing a plan for your children and other dependents is incredibly important, as is preserving your legacy and minimizing taxes and legal hardships for those you leave behind. But to the degree you attend to the other issues, such as the future of your pets, is the degree to which you can feel truly liberated to live creatively and openly.

So what can be done?

One simple solution is to establish what’s known as a “pet trust.”

This document defines your wishes and instructions for how to care for your pet if you become incapacitated or if you die. Pet trusts can be a standalone document, or they may be created under the terms of your Revocable Living Trust. The trust authorizes a caretaker to take custody of and provide for day-to-day pet needs and appoints a trustee to manage the money you leave for your pet’s care. It provides for a contingent caretaker and trustee in case your primary choices are not able or willing to serve. Finally, it can dovetail nicely with your charitable plans. After funding your pet’s needs, the trust can pass leftover money to a charity of your choice. Alternatively, you can leave whatever money is remaining in the trust upon your pet’s death to your family or to the pet’s caretaker. The choice is entirely yours.

Isn’t “pet planning” over the top and overly fussy?

Why go through a formal process to care for your pet’s future? After all, you might expect relatives or friends to step up after an emergency or unexpected event. Plus, the idea of setting up a special fund just for your pet might strike some as too fussy and unnecessary.

The truth, however, is that a lack of planning can have dire consequences. The Humane Society estimates that half a million pets are sent to shelters every year because their owners die or become incapacitated. Many other pets suffer because their new caregivers don’t have insight into their care, medical history, or nutritional needs. Worst of all, some pets are euthanized simply because there’s no plan in place.

Keep the following ideas in mind.

● Invest thought into appointing a caregiver for your pet.
● Choose alternate caregivers as well, in the event that your chosen person can’t handle the job for whatever reason.
● Write down all instructions, specifications and commitments. Remember the old saying: the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.
● Plan to set aside funds for the pet’s care. For instance, you can name the pet trust as a life insurance beneficiary. When we discuss pet planning with you, we’ll show you how and when assets can be funded into your pet trust.
● Don’t go overboard. If you leave too much money to a pet – particularly at the expense of another worthy beneficiary, such as a child – the arrangement could be contested.

Please contact our team today to learn more about how to plan for your pet and get peace of mind about his future care.


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