Most people count family, charities and close friends as their beneficiaries when they come to us for estate planning. At Phelps LaClair, we also have clients who consider their pets to be family members. The emotional bond can be quite strong between humans and animals. It is only natural that a “pet parent” might want to know their furry friends will be taken care of when the time comes for an owner’s passing. Estate plans that include a trust for pets are becoming more common.
What is a pet trust for?
Trusts are established for the sake of the beneficiaries who will inherit property, cash and other assets. Like every other trust, a trust for pets can specify whatever the grantor desires. Because pets aren’t people who can make decisions and carry out even simple affairs, a pet trust will name a trustee who will be responsible to handle cash and other assets for the benefit of the pets named in the trust. Funds that are held in trust for the pet can be used to pay for food, veterinary care, grooming, and boarding. As with humans, end-of-life and burial arrangements can also be specified in the trust.
Common elements in the trust
When you come to Phelps LaClair to help you structure a pet trust, there are certain things you need to have considered. What is your pet’s current standard of living? Some animals will be part of your household; others may live in a stable, barn or pen. Your pet trust should provide enough funding for the living arrangements your pet already has. The funding should also be available for living maintenance to extend for the pet’s entire lifetime.
Who would you like to name as caregivers? You should contact these individuals and secure their agreement. What level of care should your pet receive from the new caregivers? Some dogs, for instance, require daily grooming. Is your pet parrot allowed out of the cage; does your cat enjoy walking with a leash?
All pets should have regular veterinary checkups and dental care. You should state what is your pet’s life expectancy, and how the caregivers should respond to a health problem. These considerations are things the new caregivers would benefit from knowing.
If your pet dies before the trust funding is used up, what happens to the remaining money? Common scenarios include donations to charity, to the caregivers, or to the remaining beneficiaries.
When does the trust go into effect?
No one knows the day or the time of their passing or incapacitation. The pet trust should specify that it goes into effect upon the death or invalidity of the grantor. In Arizona, the trust terminates upon the death of the pet.
To avoid confusion as to the identity of the pet, he/she should be microchipped and the chip number recorded in the trust. This will help to prevent fraud and will help in identifying your pet should he or she become lost or stolen. Photos and descriptions are also good items to include.
Many pet owners treat their animals with the same kind of love and affection as they treat other members of the family. Pets don’t ask for much, just some love, attention and playtime. And they give so much happiness in return, especially to elderly pet parents.
Give us a Call
At Phelps LaClair, we want to help you help your pet. Estate plans that include a trust for pets is one way we can serve you. Call us today for a complimentary, no obligation first consultation. We look forward to discussing your plans and goals for responsibly passing on your wealth to the next generations and ensuring all your loved ones are taken care of when you pass.