For many of us, pets are family. We research the best food for them. Ensure they have the most comfortable bed in the house. Maybe even take them to the chiropractor. And on movie night, they have a place front and center. Possibly on the couch itself.
If the thought of your beloved pet ending up in a high-kill shelter is utterly unthinkable, you should think about a pet trust and here’s why.
What is a pet trust?
A pet trust is a relatively new—but now widely used—estate-planning tool. These days, all 50 states recognize pet trusts, each with slightly different requirements. But generally, a pet trust is a legal mechanism created to direct and pay for the care of your pet—or pets—if you become incapacitated or pass away.
With a pet trust, you appoint a caretaker (and a backup), instruct how you want your pet to be cared for, and appoint the trustee who ensures your wishes are carried out and manages the finances. The trust is usually slightly over-funded with the pet’s life expectancy in mind, and any unspent funds remaining after the pet’s death are transferred according to your wishes (such as to a charity or even back to your family).
Why do I need a pet trust?
You may not need a pet trust. It depends on what you think would happen to your pet if you were to become incapacitated or pass away. A family pet will probably be OK because other family members will continue care. If you and your partner co-own a pet, that’s probably a favorable situation—but you need to consider what would happen to your pet if both you and your partner were in an accident together. Finally, if you’re single, a senior, or facing an illness, you’ll want to seriously consider a pet trust.
You may think you don’t need a pet trust because you have a big family or a strong friend network and you “know” that someone would step forward and care for your pet. But with a pet trust, you can be completely sure that your pet is cared for in the way you’d want because you’ve left instructions and a trustee to ensure that those instructions are carried out. And with adequate funding, you can also be sure that your wishes will not be a financial burden to the caretaker.
What happens to my pet if I don’t have a pet trust?
The thing is that no one can say for sure what will happen to your pet without a pet trust in place. That’s unsettling to most pet people. Your pet may be adopted by your favorite cousin and live a long and happy life. Your pet may end up at a high-kill shelter and perish or—perhaps worse yet—be adopted out to an animal abuser.
If this kind of uncertainty is upsetting to you, you can establish a pet trust for peace of mind.
Benefits of a pet trust:
In addition to being able to leave detailed instructions about how to care for your pet, there are additional benefits to pre-planning.
- With a pet trust, you decide who will care for your pet and can talk with them to be sure they understand the responsibility. They’ll have the benefit of knowing that your pet would come with both instructions and funds, and probably feel honored that you chose them.
- A pet trust becomes effective immediately because there’s no long probate process for trusts. So, your pet will immediately go to the caretaker and the funds will be readily available. This can be especially important if you pet requires regular medical care or pricey food or medicine.
- The biggest benefit of a pet trust to most people is the highly valued peace of mind it provides.
Work with a Corning Estate Planning Attorney
If you’d like to discuss protecting your pet with a pet trust, Roth Elder Law, PLLC would be happy to start that conversation. Call us today to schedule an initial meeting at 607-962-6162 or complete the contact form here on our website.