Statistics tell us that Americans love their pets. If you are a pet owner, you probably don’t need those numbers though to tell you how important pets are to the average American household. We have an entire industry in the U.S. devoted to nothing but pampering pets. Dogs and cats have their own clothes, houses, and specialized food. We even buckle them up when they accompany us on a car ride. Without a doubt, pets are part of the family for the majority of Americans. Why then, are they not included in the average estate plan? If you are a pet owner, and your pet is not included in your estate plan, ask yourself why not? For most people, the answer is simple – they simply don’t know how to include their pet in their estate plan. The good news is that including your pet is your estate plan is relatively easy to do. For most animal lovers, a pet trust is the solution. Is a pet trust right for your estate plan though?
If you own a dog, cat, or other type of pet you probably treat your pet as part of the family. When it comes time to incorporate your pet into your estate plan you can continue to view your pet as part of the family – as another beneficiary of your plan – except that this particular beneficiary needs someone to manage and protect the gifts left to him/her when you die or become incapacitated. This isn’t much different than how a minor child, or a beneficiary with special needs, is handled in an estate plan. Though there are other options, a pet trust is a very common, and extremely successful, way to protect your pet and the assets you designate for your pet’s care and maintenance.
A pet trust works in essentially the same way as any other trust agreement. You will need to name a Trustee to manage the trust assets and distribute trust funds as well as someone to care for your pet on a daily basis. The Trustee can be the same person who has the day to day care of your pet; however, it is often advisable to nominate two different people to the positions. Assets then need to be designated to fund the trust and terms created to guide the investment and distribution of those assets. Your trust terms can be as broad, or as narrow, as you wish, meaning they can be used to decide everything from which veterinarian your pet will treat with to how often he/she visits the groomer. One major advantage to using a pet trust instead of other available options is that a pet trust can be used if you become incapacitated as well as after your death – something that other options don’t offer.
If you have additional questions or concerns about incorporating a pet trust into your estate plan, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.