Smart Estate Planning for Pets: How to Set Up a Pet Trust

estate-planningYou care for your pet each and every day, but what would happen to your pet if something happened to you? We might like to think that our spouses, siblings or children would take care of our beloved pets if we were to pass away, but studies show that most pets that are left behind end up going to the local shelter. This can be because no one wants to take the pet in or simply because no one has the means to take care of the pet without financial assistance.

If you have been thinking about estate planning for pets or want to learn how to set up a pet trust, you are not alone. A recent study published in Forbes Magazine revealed that 44 percent of Americans have made plans for their pets if they were unable to take care of them for themselves or if they passed away. Outside of getting regular veterinary care in Massachusetts for our beloved pets, the best thing we can do is to start thinking about their future.

Putting It in Writing
You may have spoken to relatives who have promised to take care of your pets if something were to happen to you, but it is important to put it in writing. Providing written instructions can help your loved ones to know what to do with your cat or dog in an emergency situation, know who has agreed to help and understand what provisions have been made for that help. It is important to make sure that your pet will receive all the love and care they need, especially when they are grieving your loss.

In addition to leaving written instructions, many pet owners are choosing to work with a lawyer as part of their will and life insurance policy, naming a beneficiary in their estate planning for pets. In the study posted on Forbes, a large percentage of those surveyed stated that they had set aside a cash gift for the agreed caregiver who is named as the beneficiary in the pet trust. About 35 percent stated that they added extra life insurance to cover their pet’s expenses and care, while another 13 percent purchased an annuity for the caregiver as well.

How to Set Up a Pet Trust
Hollywood celebrities are famous for providing financial support as a part of their estate planning for pets. Lauren Bacall and Joan Rivers are two of the most recent pet owners to make the news who provided for their pets after their death. Veterinary check-up costs and other medical care, as well as feeding and providing a loving home for pets, are just some of the things that should be specified when you set out to learn how to set up a pet trust.

There are two distinct types of pet trusts available for pet owners to choose from in their estate planning for pets. Money cannot be left to a pet for legal purposes, but a pet trust can be set up to set money aside for a trusted individual who will be held responsible for taking care of your pet when you are unable or have passed away. A traditional trust allows you to designate a caregiver and for funds to be given to that caregiver according to the care instructions that you have outlined in your trust. Some states accept what is known as a statutory pet trust, which is more general and allows the caregiver to make decisions as to how the cash will be used to care for the pet.

Start by contacting your lawyer and tell them that you want to learn how to set up a pet trust to provide for veterinary care in Massachusetts. Estate planning for pets is similar to other types of estate planning, but you will definitely want to consult with a legal expert about what can and cannot be enforced or provided in your state. Make sure to speak with the potential caregiver in advance and make sure that they know about your plan, the pet trust and other details about the estate planning for pets that you are organizing in advance.

Make Sure Your Intentions Are Clear
To avoid any possible misunderstandings, write out a clearly detailed estate plan and place all of your documents in a file for family members and your intended caregiver to go through when the time comes. Your lawyer should have a copy of all of this information as well. Create a folder that is marked “My Estate Plan” and keep it on top of all your other documents. The folder should contain your will, pet trust, real estate records, financial records, organ donation and end-of-life directives or anything else you require.

You should also give a copy of this information to the intended caregiver for safe keeping. Name an executor to be in charge of your estate, which could be the caregiver or another family member that you trust. Add your executor as co-signer on your bank account and other financial accounts so the money can be accessed and given to the caregiver right away. This is the best advice to remember in estate planning for pets if finances could be an issue. Consider renting a safe deposit box where copies of documents and records can also be kept and name your executor as the co-signer on that as well, providing them with a key in advance for easy access.

The more details you provide in your estate planning for pets, the more you can be sure that your pets will get the best veterinary care in Massachusetts, including regular veterinary check-up visits and financial assistance for any surgeries or other treatments that may be required throughout their lifetime. Taking the time to learn how to set up a pet trust and including estate planning for pets in your will and life insurance policy will give you a peace of mind in knowing that your pets will be well cared for in your absence.

Advise Your Vet of Your Plans
Make sure to let your veterinarian know about your estate planning for pets and make sure to name the intended caregiver as an authorized person on your medical records to bring in your pets for veterinary check-up visits or to gain access to information about your pet. Call Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth to find out more about keeping up-to-date pet records and information available to provide to a designated caregiver in the event that you are no longer able to care for your pet.