For most people, a pet is a source of companionship and unconditional love that helps provide joy and happiness. Because animals don’t typically live as long as humans, it’s likely that you believe your pet will die before you. However, this isn’t always the case. If you view your pet as part of the family, a friend, or a companion that you would want taken care of if you die first, you may want to designate someone to be responsible for it and allocate money for that care. Setting up a pet trust can help you do that.
Choosing a Caretaker
When setting up a trust, you should consider the person or organization you want to care for your pet. The simplest option is to choose someone you know and trust such as a spouse, family member, or friend. There's a lot to consider when you choose someone for this role, so talk to this person to be sure he is willing to take responsibility for your animal. It's a good idea to name an alternative caregiver (this can include a sanctuary or shelter of your choosing) in case circumstances change and the primary caregiver is unable to perform the duties or changes his mind. In addition to a caretaker, you'll need to choose a trustee to monitor the caretaker's services and enforce the terms of the trust.
If you don't have anyone to care for your pet or know someone who would be willing to take responsibility, you can add a line to your will designating a dollar amount solely for the care of your pet. The probate court will choose a caretaker for your pet as well as a trustee to ensure the caretaker is following the rules of the trust. Keep in mind that you can only designate care for animals that were alive during your lifetime and that lasts as long as the animal is alive—the trust does not include other animals that your caretaker may acquire or offspring from your pet. It's also a good idea to set aside photos or other resources that identify your pet in order to prevent fraud.
What to Consider When You Designate Funding
In addition to specifying the person to care for your pet when you're gone, you’ll need to leave enough money for that care. Here are some factors to consider:
- The life expectancy of your pet. Consider how long you believe your pet will live. Is it a puppy now? Will it be full grown in a few years? Is it older and likely to die soon after you?
- The medical needs of your pet. Consider if your pet has a medical condition, takes medication, or needs special attention.
- The quality of life you desire for your pet. Consider the type of environment you want for your pet. Determine if you want it to live in the same type of surroundings—for example, a house with a yard instead of an apartment.
- The amount of money needed. Consider what your pet will require for care—a guinea pig will need less money than a pony. If you're using a corporate or professional trustee, you'll need to factor that cost in as well.
- The money left over once your pet dies. You’ll need to consider what to do with any leftover funds after the death of your pet. You may want to give the remainder to the caretaker, an animal organization, or someone in your family.
Giving Detailed Instructions
Your caretaker will look after your pet according to the guidelines of the pet trust, so you want to include detailed instructions for that care. It’s typical for pet owners to include a description of the type of food they want their pet to be fed, how many times it should visit a veterinarian and the name of the animal clinic, and how the pet should be buried. These instructions can even give details about the type of bed the pet should sleep in and the toys it should have.
Your trust can also give details about how you want your designated trustee to monitor your pet’s caretaker. You can specify how closely the trustee should track the actions of the caretaker and how all pet expenses should be documented. The trustee can assign someone else to take care of your pet if the caregiver fails to perform his duties.
We Can Help
If you’re considering the care of your pet after you die, contact us at (714) 459-5481. We can assist you with creating a trust that will honor your pet and ensure that it has a happy, healthy life after you're gone.