Pet Trusts: Silly or Sensible?

Posted on: April 19th, 2013
While it may seem a bit unusual, pet trusts are becoming far more commonplace than you might think. According to the American Pet Products Association, 62% of American households have pets. And goodness knows, we spoil them! In 2012, Americans spent an estimated $53 billion on our pets, up 28% over the past five years, even in a down economy.  Ensuring your much-loved animals will be taken care of after they are gone is of the utmost importance to some pet owners.
Most trusts and estates attorneys agree that without at least some sort of informal arrangement, you can't be sure what will happen to your pet. While you might assume a family member would take the pet in, this may not be the case.  And if no one takes your adored pet in, Fido or Fifi might end up in your local shelter.  A pet trust is the answer.  
A pet trust is a legal document created to ensure your pets will continue to be cared for as you cared for them.  Through the pet trust, you appoint a caregiver and at least one backup caregiver to provide your pet's care.  You also appoint a Trustee to manage the money and ensure that the caregiver is fulfilling his or her duties.  While designing the trust, you decide whether the caregiver and trustee should be paid for their services and if so, how much.
A competently drafted pet trust appoints a caregiver, a money manager (trustee) and provides funds and specific directions for the pet's care.  With proper planning, you have the ability to design a care plan not only in the event of your death but also your temporary or permanent disability.  Also, you can select a temporary emergency caregiver in the event that something unexpected happens to you such as providing them with keys to your home, feeding and care instructions, the name of your veterinarian, and information about permanent care instructions. â€¨â€¨Unfortunately, there is no assurance that if you leave money to someone outright to care for your pet that they will uphold their end of the promise.  In addition, that person could die and the money you provided for your pet's care could end up going to that person's heirs or beneficiaries at death.  A trust protects the money and allows you to pick a series of back up caregivers.
So if you have a pet that you love and adore, and you consider them part of your family, then it’s not silly to plan a sound strategy that treats them with respect, rather than as property as the law does in most states.  All it takes is a little bit of planning and some help from an attorney to reduce the anxiety that many pet owners experience when envisioning their pet living without them.
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