Have you included your pets or other domestic animals in your estate plans? Many animal owners add their pets to their will, expecting that this will be sufficient. However, this may not be enough for many reasons, including the time needed to probate a will and the funds needed to care for the animal. A better solution is to establish a pet trust.
Pet trusts, like other forms of trusts in estate planning, have a few basic features to protect your pet. Here are the five most important of these features.
1. A Trustee.
The trustee of any trust is the individual or organization you assign to carry out the trust's legal and financial oversight. They file trust forms, manage its assets, and pay its bills. The trustee has a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the pet, including the ability to remove a caregiver if needed.
2. A Caregiver.
The trustee handles the administration of the pet's assets, and a caregiver actually provides the home for your pet. Most owners choose a trusted friend or close family member, although you can arrange to pay a caregiver if no one is able to do this job for your pet. In addition, you should generally name a successor caregiver in case the primary person cannot fulfill their duties.
3. Terms and Instructions.
Every trust has a set of rules (terms) that govern its operation as a legal entity. But pet trusts should also have a set of pet instructions. This is an important part of the trust because it ensures your beloved four-legged friend receives the love and attention it deserves, along with medical care you would approve of.
One of the primary purposes of a pet trust is to provide the funds to ensure your animal has the kind of life you want them to for as long as they outlive you. So you'll need to decide what assets to transfer into the trust to cover their needs. State rules, though, often prevent a donor from transferring an unreasonably large amount of money into a pet trust.
What happens when your pet finally dies after a good and long life? The remaining funds in the trust must go somewhere, and you name this beneficiary or beneficiaries when you set up the trust. It may be a family member, friend, or anyone else you choose. Many pet owners arrange to donate remaining funds to an animal charity.
You demonstrate how valuable your animals or pets are to you by taking the time to set up a pet trust during your estate planning process. While it may take some effort, knowing your fur babies are in good hands helps you enjoy your time with them now and have confidence in the future.