More than 90 million Americans have pets in their households, but the vast majority of these individuals don’t think to make any kind of allowances for what should become of their pets in the event of their demise. Comprehensive estate planning should include some kind of provisions for care of your pet when you pass on, so those decisions aren’t simply left up to someone’s judgment, or to court rulings. Before including your pets in your estate plan, you should give some thought to how you want your pets cared for when you aren’t around.
Things You Need To Decide
First of all, you need to decide who you want your pets to reside with. Then, talk to those individuals to make sure arrangements are acceptable. You should also be sure of what health care requirements your pet needs, if they have any health issues at all. Figure out what kind of resources will be required in order to provide adequate care for your pets. After you’ve decided on these key issues, it should be easy enough to discuss with your attorney some kind of a trust plan to ensure that your pets are properly taken care of.
Of course, you have to be comfortable with selecting that new caregiver for your pets. It could be a friend, family member, or someone else that you can rely on. Keep in mind that you should never assume this person would be willing to provide lifetime care for your pets. Make sure that scenario is acceptable to them. If it turns out that there’s no one whom you know who is willing to take on that responsibility for the duration of the pet’s life, you may have to consider a pet sanctuary of some type.
A Care Plan
If you do have a suitable caregiver in mind and you have discussed pet care with that person, you’ll have to prepare some kind of care plan which you can provide the caregiver with that includes all necessary directions about their health, any dietary restrictions, and other information you think is necessary for the pet’s welfare. Some pets are finicky about certain situations and about certain foods, so this information should all be provided to your new caregiver in the care plan.
The plan should also include any financial resources that you want to leave behind, so your pet can be properly cared for during their lifetime. There will be the obvious costs of food and medical care, but you may also want to consider some form of compensation for the caregiver. Some pet owners choose to leave behind a lump sum of money to a trusted caregiver. Others prefer to create a pet trust and designate a trustee to oversee the funds left in that trust.
The Pet Trust
A pet trust can be a brand-new standalone trust, or it can be an add-on to a current trust. Along with the trust, you’ll need to provide explicit directions about the care you want provided for your pets and specific information about the caregiver you choose for funding and care of the pets. Perhaps most importantly, include how you intend to avoid any kind of probate proceeding for a chosen caregiver.
All directions and funding can be made through your last will and testament. However, you must file this with the court. If a caregiver needs those funds from your estate in order to care for your pets, they will be required to proceed through Probate Court. By setting up a pet trust, a single trustee is designated to manage care for the pet, as well as the funds associated with the trust.
Normally, a pet trust terminates when the pet itself passes away. In the case of multiple pets, the pet trust terminates when the last surviving pet passes on. Once the last surviving pet passes away, any funds still remaining in the pet trust will be distributed to your selected beneficiaries under the terms of the trust.
If you don’t want to be one of the vast majority of Americans who overlooks care for their pets when they pass on, you should consider some kind of estate planning which accounts for your pet’s ongoing care. Choose someone who is willing to care for your pets when you’re gone. Make sure to arrange for funds to be provided for health care, food, and possibly compensation for the caregiver. When you’ve established an explicit plan for your pet’s care after you pass on, you’ll feel better knowing that your pet is in good hands.
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