If you are one of the millions of Americans who considers a beloved pet to be part of the family, then you undoubtedly worry about what will happen to your pet when you are no longer here to take care of him or her. The good news is that with proper estate planning, you can provide for your pet’s care after your death by creating a pet trust.
A pet trust operates in the same basic fashion as any other trust. As the grantor of the trust, you are able to appoint a trustee and a beneficiary (your pet), as well as designate assets to fund the trust and establish rules regarding how the trust assets are to be used for the care of your pet.
The trustee of your pet trust may be the same person who is to have the day to day care of your pet, but does not have to be the same person. You may also choose to appoint a neutral party as the trustee, such as an attorney. As the grantor of the trust, you have the ability to decide things such as what the trust funds can be used for and how often distributions are to be made. You can be as specific or as general as you wish to be with the terms. For example, you may choose to dictate what type of food your pet is fed and what veterinarian is to be used ,or you may simply establish a disbursement schedule and depend on the caregiver to make all other decision.
By creating a pet trust, you are able to rest easier knowing that your pet will be well cared for even after you are gone.
If you are like millions of Americans, you probably own at least one pet. Have you taken the time to consider what will happen to your pet when you die? If you haven’t, now is the time to do so before it is too late.
When you die, your assets will all be secured until your executor or personal representative has the chance to inventory them and file the proper documents with the probate court. But what about your pet? Someone needs to look after your pet immediately after you die. A well meaning loved one may step in for a few days, but what happens after that? Who will pay for his or her care? Sadly, thousands of cats and dogs end up in shelters each year because their owner failed to make plans for the animal in the event of their death. You can ensure that your beloved pet is not one of these animals by creating a pet trust.
A pet trust takes all the guesswork out of your pet’s future after your death. Not only can you appoint a trustee whose job it is too ensure that the pet is well cared for, but you can also leave behind sufficient funds that are earmarked just for your pet to cover the cost of his or her care. Don’t take any chances with your pet. Take the time now to create a pet trust and give both you and your pet some peace of mind.
Anyone who owns a pet knows the love that can be shared between a human and an animal. Not surprisingly, many people want to make sure their pet is properly cared for in the event of their death in the same way they want to make sure family members are taken care of financially. One way to do that is to create a pet trust. Although a pet trust is a wonderful estate planning tool, be sure that you do not create a probate nightmare as a result of the terms of your pet trust as did the late Leona Helmsley.
For anyone not familiar with the story, Leona Helmsley was a New York hotel heiress who was known as the “Queen of Mean”. Upon her husband’s death, Helmsley bought a Maltese puppy whom she named Trouble. Trouble was an apt name as it turns out.
Helmsley created a pet trust for her beloved pooch and designated a whopping $12 million to fund the trust. As if this excessive amount was not enough to raise the attention of the probate court charged with overseeing her estate upon her death, she also disinherited many close family members, including some of her grandchildren. After a lengthy court battle, the trust was decreased by the court to $2 million and Trouble lived out the rest of his life in luxury.
Given Helmsley’s reputation, it may actually have been her intention to cause a probate battle upon her death; however, most people strive for the opposite--an estate free from challenges and lengthy probate battles. If your goal is to be sure your pets are cared for, by all means fund the trust with sufficient funds to care for your pet after your death. In most states that authorize a pet trust, there is a provision that requires the principal of the trust to be a reasonable amount. This opens the trust to challenge in a court if the remaining beneficiaries consider the amount you have specified to be unreasonable. Take a lesson from Leona - steer clear of an excessive amount that begs for an estate challenge to be filed.
Setting aside money for someone to care for your pets after you’re gone is not only for the rich and famous. Creating an estate plan that includes your pet should be the typical practice for all animal owners. You can make sure when someone takes care of your best four-legged friend after you pass away, you are not creating a financial burden. A pet trust must be done right, so be certain to consult with your estate planning attorney. Your attorney can recommend a proper estate plan that includes your pets.
Although creating a pet trust may seem like the most obvious way to care for your pet, you can make sure your beloved pet continues receiving proper care after you’re no longer around by creating a conditional Will. Your estate planning attorney can help you determine whether creating a pet trust or a conditional Will would better accommodate your individual needs.
A pet trust is a written document that you create while you are alive. To establish a valid trust, you need to fund it and appoint a trustee. Most states allow their residents to establish pet trusts for the benefit of their pets. A conditional will allows you to place a condition on an heir’s right to receive an inheritance. Typically, the condition you place on your heir is that he or she must take care of your pet to be able to receive the inheritance. Speak with your estate planning attorney about leaving a conditional bequest to a trusted friend or relative.
Pet Trusts and Conditional Wills: Ways to Include Your Pet in Your Estate Plans
Unfortunately, stories of Marines returning home from combat are not uncommon. Likewise, stories of dog owners who form a bond with their pet are also not uncommon. A story, however, that combines the two has moved thousands to get involved and lend support.
Just as law enforcement officers are sometimes paired with a canine partner, military personnel can also be paired with a canine partner. Former Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey, 28, and her military service dog named Sgt. Rex completed over 100 missions together during two six-month tours in Iraq. Upon returning home in 2007, Leavey realized that she could not imagine not having Rex with her in her civilian life. Leavey wanted to adopt Rex; however, adopting a military service dog is far from an easy task to accomplish. Leavey refused to give up her mission. Eventually, her story went public and garnered the support of U.S. Senator Schumer as well as over 21,000 people who signed an online petition asking for Leavey to be given permission to adopt Rex. Her efforts finally paid off -- Leavey was given permission to adopt Rex and they will soon be reunited.
If you have a pet to whom you are equally attached, make sure you think about him or her when you create your estate plan. Just as you create a trust for a family member, you can create a pet trust for your pet, thereby ensuring that he or she will be provided for in the event you are no longer here to do so yourself.