How to include your pet in your estate plan

With a few exceptions, most animals kept as pets have a shorter lifespan than their human counterparts. But if you should pass away unexpectedly or face incapacity, have you ever considered what will happen to your furry friend? Pets rely solely on their owners for their needs and survival. Without provisions for your pet in your estate plan, your fur-baby could end up with someone undesirable or an animal shelter where they could face euthanization.

While you may have made informal arrangements with a family member or friend for your pet’s just-in-case care, unfortunately, these agreements are generally not legally enforceable. If you wish to ensure your pet has care no matter what happens to you, including them in your estate plan can give pet parents peace of mind.

What is a pet trust?

pet trust is a legal document that allows you to name a caretaker for your pets and obligates them to care for your animals per your instructions. In a pet trust, you will also set aside funds for your pet’s needs that go to your caretaker upon your death or incapacity. The document also ensures that your caretaker can’t use the funds for anything other than your pet’s care.

When setting up a trust for your pets, here are a few things you’ll want to consider for their care:

  • Naming your pet’s caregiver: Pets are a long-term responsibility, so you’ll want to be sure the person you name as caregiver is willing and up to the task. They should also be a good fit for your pet. For example, if you have a dog, you don’t want to choose someone with dog allergies or who lives in a small studio apartment.
  • Setting aside money: When considering how much money to set aside, you’ll want to factor in your pet’s average life-expectancy and care needs. From veterinary costs to feeding and grooming, it’s likely you’ll need to reserve a hefty chunk of change for your animal companions.
  • Outlining your pet’s care needs: Most pet owners attend to their pets as though they are their children. If you wish to include specific instructions for your pet’s care, such as how they should be fed or how often they require exercise, you can include these details in your pet trust.

A pet trust can be its own document or added easily to an existing trust. If you want to ensure your pet will always have love and care, including them in your estate plan with a pet trust will guarantee their safety.

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