Why do I need a Pet Trust?
Thousands of pets each year are turned over to local shelters and animal control facilities because their owners died and did not make provisions for their care. Many of us assume that we will outlive our pets, but what would happen if you became unexpectedly ill, were injured, or died? Would your pets be cared for in the manner that you wish?
You probably think of your pets as a part of your family. However, legally pets are considered personal property like your car or jewelry. If you are ill, injured or otherwise unable to care for your pets and have not planned ahead, your pets will be at the mercy of whoever is chosen to manage your property and financial affairs and that may not be in the best interests of your pets. Upon your death your pets will pass to your heirs unless you have specifically provided for them.
This means that unless you make specific provisions, your pets could end up like thousands do each year, with a caregiver who does not care, in a shelter or homeless.
U.S. Pet owners spent over $43 Billion dollars in 2008 pampering their pets. (see http://www.appma.org/press_industrytrends.asp) We buy clothes, toys, treats, insurance and pay for expensive veterinary procedures. However, many of us forget that we need to consider what our pets’ lives would be like without us.
What is a Pet Trust?
A Pet Trust is established to make sure that your pets receive the standard of care you desire in the event of your illness, injury or death. You choose a Trustee to manage and distribute funds and oversee your pets care. You also choose a Caregiver that provides a home and cares for your pets.
You provide specific “Care Instructions” that state the standard of care you desire for your pets and the Trustee ensures that the Caregiver is following these instructions. A Pet Trust is very flexible and can be modified to suit your needs. You can easily add new pets to your Trust without modifying the Trust document. You can modify or terminate the trust at any time prior to your death.
Where does the Trust Money come from?
You don’t have to have Leona Helmsley’s millions to make sure that your pets are cared for. There are several ways that funds can be obtained to “fund” the trust so that money is available for the care of your pets, such as:
• Direct transfer of money or property
• Life Insurance- the trust may be the beneficiary of the entire policy or a portion of an existing policy
• Pour over will provisions-funds or property from your estate may be left to the trust
• Annuities, retirement or similar accounts
What should I do if I do not have a Caregiver for my Pets?
Several Shelter groups offer Caregiver Services in exchange for a donation. Senior Paws & Furry Friends is one local organization that offers this service. Contact them for details.
I already have a will, do I need new one?
No, your Pet Trust is a “stand alone” document and you do not need to redo your will for your Trust. You can choose not to modify your will and “fund” your trust by one of the means mentioned above. However, many people choose to leave an asset, or assets, to their Trust and this can be accomplished by a simple Codicil to the current will which can modify one or more items in the will. This allows specific assets to be transferred to the Trust upon your death. If you do not have a will and would like to discuss all of your estate planning needs, please contact us .