Pet trust, estate planning, dog trust

Is a Pet Trust Right for You?


According to news reports, hundreds of thousands of pets each year are left homeless after their owner dies without specifying how the pet should be cared for.  Certainly, this omission is not a product of pet owners not loving their little, fury family members. Often, it is because pet owners overlooked the matter during estate planning.  Do not let this happen to you! More than forty-five states permit pet trusts (including Nevada), making this a great option for you and your family.


Elements of a Pet Trust

A pet trust requires these four elements:

The trustee: The person responsible for the trust.  It is best to select a trustee that will be vigilant in ensuring that the money is being spent responsibly.

The caretaker: The person assigned by the trust to care for your animal(s).  The trustee and the caretaker can be the same person; however, it is advisable for each position to be separate person (for increased accountability, see below).  It is best to designate a second caregiver just in case the first person is unable to care for your pet.  To be even more thorough, you may want to designate an organization, like the SPCA, to care for your pet in case the caretakers selected are unable to carry out their functions.

The pet(s): You will want to be specific in stating if the trust applies to one or all of your animals.  If you want more than one animal included, it is best to describe each and not use broad phrases like “all my pets.”

The remainder beneficiary: The person that will inherit the remaining amount of money once the pet has passed away.  A pet trust may not be extended to cover the living expenses of the offspring of your pet, so this is an important element.


How Much Money Needs to Be Allocated?

To determine how much money needs to left in the trust, you will need two estimates:

  1. The approximate life-span of your pet.
  2. The amount of money it costs each year to care for your pet.

An animal healthcare provider can assist you in estimating these amounts, although it is fairly probable that you know better than anyone exactly what your pet’s dietary needs are.  Once you have an estimate of each of these amounts, just multiply to determine the total.   It is best to be conservative in your estimates as you do not want your pet’s living expenses to be underfunded.


A Pet Trust Creates a Binding Obligation

If you were to leave instructions with a family member or friend stating how to care for your pet, there would be no legal recourse to ensure that your pet receives the care you desire.  However, with a pet trust, you are creating a legal obligation for the caretaker to follow the terms dictated by the trust.  If the caretaker does not abide by these terms, he or she may be taken to court, where a judge might enforce the terms of the trust, or transfer responsibility of your pet to the other caretaker listed in the trust.


Should You Create a Living Trust?

Yes! And here are five good reasons why:


  1. Control

With a revocable living trust, you will retain control over your assets while alive and after you are deceased.  Other estate-planning documents, such as wills, only come into effect once you are deceased.  With a living trust, you control your assets now and in the future.  If, unfortunately, something were to happen to you that left you in a state where you could no longer control your own affairs (sickness for example), the living trust would direct a trustee (of your choosing) to speak and act on your behalf.  Without the living trust, there may be complicated court proceedings to determine who will be in control of your livelihood and affairs.  Worse, a court may appoint a person you do not want to control your health, assets, and affairs.


  1. Saving Money

Less of your hard-earned money will go toward paying court and attorney fees.  The state charges a fee for having to settle estates through the probate courts (there are additional fees as well).  You can avoid paying these higher fees by planning ahead and working with a trusted attorney to establish a living trust for a fraction of the cost.


  1. No Delays

Distribution of the estate assets to your beneficiaries (those heirs you have left the assets to) will occur upon your death without delay.  If you decide to use a will, (or worse, allow the state probate system to settle your estate), to distribute your assets, it could take as long as two years for the beneficiaries to receive their assets.  Again, by using a living trust, you can avoid the wait-time that usually occurs while the courts settle your affairs.  If you have a will, for example, that is disputed, there is no telling how long the court proceedings may take to settle the estate; those whom you care about most will have to wait in limbo without access to any of the assets until the courts have worked through the matter.


  1. Investment Flexibility

The trustee (the person you designate to take care of your affairs) will have the maximum flexibility to take the necessary action with your assets.  If there are potential investment opportunities that will increase the value of your portfolio, the trustee will have the necessary authority to buy or sell assets to get the most out of your money.  Other estate documents do not provide the same flexibility and you may lose potential money-making opportunities just because your estate document will not permit the trustee to make a timely investment.


  1. Easily Make Changes

A living trust provides you with the maximum flexibility to make desired changes to your estate plan.  If you decide you want to add or remove assets, or determine that you no longer desire your assets to be held in the trust, this can easily be done.  To amend or revoke a will, (or other estate instruments), is a more complicated process.  There is no telling what challenges life may throw your way next, the living trust will be your best tool to meet those challenges and secure what matters most.

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Married Couples in Nevada

Estate-Planning-for-Same-Sex-Married-Couples-in-NevadaIn October, same-sex marriage officially became legal across the state of Nevada. This will now change the way same-sex couples in Nevada conduct their estate planning. It is important that these married couples take the necessary steps to take advantage of their new legal rights and adjust their estate plans accordingly.

The Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor changed federal policy, so that the federal government will recognize same-sex marriages in states where same-sex marriages are legal. On August 29, 2013, the IRS issued new guidelines on how that decision would affect IRS processes. Windsor does not affect states that do not have same-sex marriage, but states like Nevada are affected and couples in these states will now receive the same federal benefits and obligations as other married couples.

How Will This Affect Estate Planning?

Firstly, same-sex married couples can now take advantage of the unlimited marital deduction when transferring property between the spouses. Because of the deduction, these couples that already have estate plans must review them immediately. Estate plans are often written with formula clauses. For instance, estate plans may have a provision that transfers the maximum tax-free amount to the partner and then transfers the rest to a charity. Because these couples now benefit from the deduction, these formula clauses may now transfer more to the spouse than originally intended and it’s even possible that all would be transferred to the spouse and nothing would be left for charity. The American Bar Association recommends that same-sex couples review their estate plans and make sure they understand how much will be transferred to their spouse and how much will go to charity. They can then make changes to the plan if it’s appropriate.

Some estate plans might have created trusts because the deduction was not available. With legal same-sex marriage in the state of Nevada and the repeal of DOMA through Windsor, these couples may decide to terminate these trusts and take advantage of the marital deduction instead.

Section 2 of DOMA

Despite all of these changes that came with the United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court decision did not strike down Section 2 of DOMA which ensures that states without same-sex marriage don’t have to recognize the marriages of other states. Because of this, same-sex couples should still take extra precautions to protect their estate and their interests in other states. According to, spouses should carry power of attorney regarding health care decisions, so that they can still make health care decisions for one another when they are traveling in states without same-sex marriage. In addition, spouses should always obtain adoptions for their children if they are not the birth parent. Without adoption orders, they may not be recognized as the parent when traveling through states without same-sex marriage.

All couples throughout Nevada may now enjoy many benefits that were not available to them a few months ago. The legalization of gay marriages will affect financial planning and estate planning for same-sex couples. Now with these changes underway and slowly being implemented, it is the time for couples to review their estate plans and make sure they are structured as intended to satisfy their obligations to their spouses as well as to charities.

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