Don’t Leave Your Pet Out of Your Estate Plan!

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Our pets are our loyal companions, and for those who want to protect their beloved friends, pet trusts are available to ensure that they’re taken care of for the rest of their lives. While a regular trust requires a human beneficiary (the person who benefits from or receives the assets placed into the trust) a pet trust can name your pet as the sole beneficiary. This means you’re able to ensure that the assets designated for your pet are used solely for their care and that they’ll continue to receive the same quality of life you currently provide them.

Basics of a Pet Trust

Although they operate similar to other trusts, pet trusts have to be handled a little differently than most other types of trusts. To start, the trustee, or the person who will operate and manage the assets of the trust, will usually be the new caregiver of your pet. As such, it’s important to find a trustee who wants to care for your animal, not just manage the assets of the trust. Pet trusts will also usually only include cash as the only asset, as other assets generally aren’t useful to our furry friends – although, there have been cases where more than just money was left to a pet.

Pet trusts should also be careful to clearly outline the care that should be provided to the animal. Usually, this is the majority of the details outlined by the trust. You may specify practically any reasonable detail, including the type of food they should be fed, and how often they should receive veterinary care. Keep in mind that the money stored in the trust is what will be used to provide this care, and so the amount stored should be enough to provide their care for the rest of their life. You may also specify what should be done with any remaining assets if they remain after the lifetime of your pet. Often, owners will transfer the rest of those assets to the pet’s caregiver, provided that they properly cared for the animal for the entire duration. 

Pet trusts provide assurance that your chosen caregiver will care for your pet in the manner you specify. As with any trust, the trustee is a fiduciary, meaning that they have a legal obligation to follow the terms of the trust. You are able to specify a replacement trustee if the primary one becomes unable to provide the necessary level of care, or fails in their duties. Pet trusts must also clearly specify that the assets are to be used only for the care of the animal or else risk an untrustworthy trustee taking those assets for themselves. Another individual can be named as the trust protector, who will check in on your pet and ensure that its caregiver is following the terms of the trust. 

If you’re ready to begin your own estate planning or need to update your current estate plan to add a pet trust or any other changes, Harbor Law is here to help. Contact us today via our website or at (888) 335-2815 to get started with our services.

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