Americans treat their pets as part of the family. Many of us agree that the end of the day, coming through the door and seeing our dogs waiting to greet us is important. We also treasure our cats and other domesticated pets and appreciate the value they add to our homes and our families. It comes as no surprise then that we want to be sure that if they outlive us, they will be as well cared for then as they are now.
Estate Planning and Your Pet
As far as the law is concerned, pets are classified as property. Most of us would disagree, but the legalities of it mean we have to approach their care as such. And yes, it is difficult to consider our little guy who makes us laugh, listens without interrupting and is more loyal than most humans as property. You should know, though, that this type of classification just might be what best protects him. It can make a big difference in his quality of life after you’ve passed.
Many pet owners still don’t know that they can make provisions for them in their estate plans to ensure they’re properly cared for. The best part is you are the one who decides who that will be. Remember, though, if you’ve not provided for your pet in a legally enforceable manner, there are no guarantees.
There are a few ways to cover the care of your pet. A pet trust allows you to name someone to distribute funds for the care of your pet, which can include vet checkups, their food, paying for a groomer and more. This is quite affordable process that’s simple, straightforward and included as part of your estate plan. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve addressed everything in a traditional will. A pet trust allows you to consider the specifics of what you deem as “proper care”.
Not only that, but a will traditionally isn’t read until an appropriate grieving period has passed. Most estate planning lawyers will tell you the reading of the will doesn’t come until a week or longer after the funeral or memorial service. That leaves a lot of time for a pet to be at the mercy of your survivors.
A Trust for Your Pet
A pet trust gives you room for specifics. You create the pet trust during your lifetime, which means it’s valid while you’re still living. A pet trust ensures no human family member will attempt to bypass or dispute any funds you’ve set aside for Baxter to claim as their own. Your wishes are cemented into that legal document.
Another reason pet trusts are so attractive is that you are provided the opportunity, if you wish, to establish an investment trustee. You can set aside monies for charities or even animal research. A trust protector can be named to follow through on those types of options.
You can make concessions for any kind of incapacity planning, too. Say, if you had to go into a nursing home, your pet trust can ensure you and Baxter (or Fluffy or Spike) can remain together. With so many new studies showing the powerful benefits of pets that are allowed in nursing homes, many have provided accommodations for residents.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be a long, expensive and time consuming process. A trust can be compiled easily with the assistance of your estate planning lawyer. Be sure to speak with him about what options might be available to ensure the safety and well-being of your pet after you’re gone. Our animals love us and they indeed grieve their losses as much as the other members of our family and because of that, it’s important we don’t betray that.
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