Pet Trusts

What about planning for our pets?

Pets are often valuable companions and beloved members of the “family.”  But many people fail to consider their pets in the estate planning. Leona Helmsley was noted many years ago for creating a lavish trust to benefit her pets. Brittany Spears reportedly spends a great deal on her 5 pets as well.

But how do we plan for Pets?

Pet trusts provisions are becoming more popular in many areas of the country. These trusts allow an owner to set aside a certain amount of money to cover the cost of feeding, grooming, and addressing a pet’s vet care. Of course, those expenses can’t always be calculated with certainty, as each pet’s life expectancy and health needs will vary.

What things should one consider in providing for one’s pets?

Caregivers

First, who will take care of your pet? It can be the same person, or those responsibilities can be divided to assure more accountability. Some owners choose to leave their pet to whomever agrees to take the pet, and others want a more formal arrangement with a particular person. Although the life span of a pet will generally be less than the person who is chosen to care for the pet, thinking about alternate caregivers is also a good idea.

Funds

Who will manage the money given for the pet’s care? How much should be set aside for a pet’s care? This can be the same person who is named the caregiver, or those responsibilities can be divided to assure more accountability. Often it makes sense to set aside a particular amount per pet, without specifying the pets by name, to allow for pets who die and are replaced by their owners, as well as an increase or decrease in the number of pets. Another consideration might be to keep records as to the age of pets when they are acquired, providing that the amount left for their care is reduced by their life expectancy, either as determined by the vet or in a formula crafted by the owner.

Finally, it is also important to provide for any balance left at the end of the pet’s life. Some pet owners worry that leaving the balance to the caretaker is the best way to ensure that the pet has a very short remaining life. This also leaves nothing for the alternates once the primary custodian is no longer able to care for them.

Although no one would suggest planning for pets is as important as planning for human family members,  real pet lovers frequently provide for their pets as well.