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:
- The approximate life-span of your pet.
- 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.