As a pet owner, you probably don’t think or your cat, dog, bunny or horse as a piece of property. More likely, they are a beloved member of your family. If you were to die, or be severely injured tomorrow, do you know what would happen to your furry family members? Who would take care of them, and would they be able to provide the quality of care that you would like for your pet(s)?
Sure, maybe you have siblings, close friends, or other acquaintances that have said they would be willing to take care of your pet if you are no longer able to do so. But how could you be sure that your pet was provided for after you’re gone?
Consider a Pet Trust
Though it may sound odd to some, the idea of setting up a pet trust is quite practical. Who wouldn’t want to be sure that their pet was properly taken care of, and given the love and protection they deserve? Wouldn’t pet owners sleep easier knowing they didn’t have to worry about it?
Here are a few reasons to consider setting up a pet trust for your beloved companion:
1. Enforce Proper Care
The fact of the matter is, once we die, we can’t be 100% sure of what will happen to our belongings, including our pets, unless we put it in writing, and make it legal. While wills are an efficient solution for managing many assets when you die, they aren’t necessarily the best option for your pet. Wills are meant simply to designate ownership of property after death. What is done with the property by the inheritor isn’t enforceable by a will.
A trust, on the other hand, is enforceable, and therefore a better choice for your pet. Pet trusts are legal, binding documents. Setting up a pet trust can ensure that your pet will be taken care of in the way you wish after you die. Specific instructions can be included in the trust that state how your pet will be cared for.
2. Provide Financial Support
While it may seem strange to want to leave money to your pet (and technically, it’s impossible), you can provide financial support for your pet in the event of your death. A pet trust allows you to designate a trustee, along with instructions on how to manage the funds when it comes to caring for your pet.
It’s important to understand that, when setting up a will vs. a trust for your pet, a will doesn’t allow for funds to be disbursed in specified increments over the course of your pet’s life. Again, while instructions as to how to manage that money for your pet could be left for the caretaker, these instructions wouldn’t be enforced in a will.
Instead, all the money you set aside for your pet would have to be given to his/her caretaker at once. This is especially important if your pet is younger, as his/her caregiver may not consider the fact that medical expenses may increase as your pet ages. With a trust, money can be managed in a way that you feel best meets the needs of your pet as they age.
3. Avoid the Consequences of Not Planning
As a pet owner, you can’t bear the thought of your pet ending up an orphan at a shelter when you die. However, unless you’ve specifically set up a trust and given full instructions of how they should be taken care of, you really can’t be sure this won’t happen.
And, although there are many no-kill animal shelters which provide great care and services for abandoned pets, it’s still a less than ideal home for your pet. Setting up a pet trust can help prevent your pet from ending up in any type of shelter.
Additional Things to Consider
In addition to setting up a trust for your pet, it is recommended that you also provide a Letter of Final Wishes. This letter often includes instructions on what should be done with the pet right after the owner dies, in addition to important medical information, such as preferred veterinary organizations, feeding schedules, etc. The more information you can leave for your pet’s new caretaker, the better.