While you may be planning to outlive your pets, what if something were to happen to you? Would Fido and Fluffy be provided for in the event of your untimley death or if you became incapacitated? Here's how you can insure that your pets get the proper care in the event that you're not able to give it to them.
According to a recent New York Times article, "leaving money to your pet became legally possible in 1990 when a section validating trusts for domestic animals was added to the Uniform Probate Code" which governs these types of matters. And laws in 27 states now allow pet owners to set up trusts for their pets to pay for their care should you die or become incapacitated. And more states, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas, all have pet trust legislation pending.
A trust for your pet is really no different than a trust for your children. It basically is a legal document that is tied to a sum of money set aside in a bank account with a trustee named to manage the account on behalf of the person establishing the trust.
For instance, my wife and I both have insurance trusts set up to benefit our son in the event of both our becoming incapacitated or sudden deaths. My wife is the executor of my trust as well as the primary beneficiary and I'm the executor and beneficiary of her trust with our son the secondary beneficiary of both trusts. In the event that something were to happen to both my wife and I at the same time, my sister and my wife's brother have been named as co-executors. They have explicit instructions spelled out within the trust on how we want our insurance policies disbursed to each other or to our son.
Same with pets.
The NY Times article went on to report that unless specific instructions are left in a will or with other family members, pets are often given up or displaced with nearly 500,000 pets killed in shelters and vet offices each year after their owners die and the pets become abandoned.
Setting up a trust fund can cost a few hundred dollars or even a lot less if you do it at the same time that you draw up a regular will. And speaking of wills, yes, you can provide for the care of your pets in a regular will but that only kicks in upon your death and not if you're seriously ill or incapacitated. And experts also caution not to leave excessive amounts of money to pets that may cause challenges from other heirs. If you want your pet to continue living in the style it's accustomed to, $5,000 - $10,000 per animal should suffice. Some people leave more and some less. It's entirely up to you.
The Humane Society of the United States offers a free kit that helps you evaluate your pets' future without you. It includes a six-page fact sheet, caregiver forms and more. You can contact them at 202.452.1100 or via email at email@example.com.
Written by Gene R. Sower
Owner, Lucy The Wonder Dog, LLC and Publisher of the DOG BYTES Newsletter.
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