Long Term Planning for Pet Care and Pet Trusts

We love our pets – from two legged and four legged, to finned, feathered, and scaled.  (Our apologies if we’ve missed a particular type of animal not listed herein).  We take care of them and assume that when we die that our family or friends will also take care of Fluffy, Barker or Pretty Bird. The sad truth is that more than half of these beloved animals end up in shelters or abandoned.

To make sure your animals are cared for after you die, we recommend setting up a pet trust for their care and support during the remaining years of their lives.  We can help you calculate how much to set aside to fund the trust and provide assistance with locating a forever home for the pet if you have no one with whom you would leave your pet.

Pet Trusts cam be complicated, so we’ve listed some thought provoking questions below before you call for an appointment.

  • Designate a Trust Beneficiary/Animal Caregiver - the animal care giver is the animal’s guardian. The Guardian that you choose is the person in charge of caring for your pets. I suggest you talk to this person prior to nominating him or her in the trust document.Deciding who this person will be is something you must consider carefully, just as you would a guardian of your child. You may also appoint or nominate an alternate or standby guardian in the event the first nominated person is unable or unwilling to care for the animals for their entire life. Both of these people will need to be compensated.If you do not appoint a care giver or trustee, the court will appoint one for you.
  • Nominate a Trustee - Designate a trustee in the document who will be in charge of distributing the funds from the trust to the guardian for the purpose of maintaining your pet’s standard of living. The guardian and trustee should be independent of each other to prevent collusion or a conflict of interest.Birds present a different type of problem, as well as reptiles: longevity.Some birds, such as certain types of parrots, can live about 80 years and it’s important to leave sufficient funds for that time and to nominate an alternative care giver or even an avian sanctuary as a last resort.
  • Bequeath the Animal to the Trustee, in Trust – Determine the Amount of Property to Transfer to the Trust -don’t forget to include funds for toys, food, bedding, outdoor equipment, vet expenses, emergencies, vet insurance, medicine, training (if necessary), boarding, and compensation for the trustee and guardian.
  • Describe the Desired Standard of Living - Has your pet ever been boarded, or do they stay with someone else when you travel or do they go with you?Do you have a preferred location or boarding facility? Which veterinarian do you use and do you insist on that vet being the primary medical provider?Do you want Fluffy to be an indoor cat or have a yard?Do you want your horses to be boarded at Guy’s-down-the-street who has a lean-to, or a reputable, bonded and licensed facility with on site management, and stable hands?Do you want Rocky to be walked 4 times a day or does he need a yard?Do your animals ever get crated or caged? Do you have a daily routine and special brand of food?
  • Specify the Method of Distribution - do you intend to pay the care giver monthly for his or her time and then pay bills only upon the receipt of bills or do you want to give the care-giver sufficient funds for the year, or 3 months, or 6 months? Do special or extraordinary needs for the pet need to be covered separately? How are they identified? If Fido needs cataract surgery, how does that get paid for? What about the visits to the surgeon or medical facility?
  • Establish Additional Distributions for the Care giver - may feel more duty bound to care for the pet if receiving additional distributions contingent on providing the animal with appropriate care. Even if you have a dear friend or family member designated as the care giver - a stipend for their oversight and time and care is welcomed and
  • Designate a Remainder Beneficiary - someone other than the care giver because if the care giver knows they will receive the corpus or residue of the trust they may have little incentive to be a good care giver. A solution to this could be a charity or your favorite animal rescue service.
  • Identify the Pet to Prevent Fraud - there is report of a trust established to care for a black cat. Inconsistencies in the reported age of the cat alerted authorities to the fact that the care giver was on the third black cat, the original having long since died. In a horse boarding case, the stable was boarding 23 retired thoroughbred horses. When someone from the bank eventually checked on the animals they found that one had died, but the barn was still sending bills for reimbursement for all 23.So, in that type of case, the trustee relies on the boarding facility to be honest. The absolutely best foolproof method, albeit expensive, is to provide the vet with a sample of your pet’s DNA.Then require the vet to run periodic comparisons.
  • Require the Trustee to Inspect the Animal on Regular Basis - and determine its physical and psychological condition preferably at random.Or, provide for an independent third party to randomly inspect the animals, even an inspector from the Humane Society, or someone that the trustee hires. Add compensation for this party to perform the inspections in the trust.

Provide Instructions for Final Disposition of the Animal burial or cremation: what, when, how and whom?

We love our pets.

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